Coal, Emissions

EPA finalizes updates to Mercury and Air Toxics Standards

EPA Mercury and Air Toxics Standards finalized new coal and oil-fired power plants

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Friday that it has finalized the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards for new coal- and oil-fired power plants, setting mercury limits slightly higher than the previous rule set in December 2011.

According to the EPA, the updated standards only apply to future power plants and do not change the types of pollution control technology that power plants will install. The EPA also stated it does not project the updates to create any significant changes in costs, emission reductions or health benefits from the standards.

The updated rule sets the limit for mercury emissions for units not designed for low rank virgin coal at 0.003 pounds/GWh, which is slightly higher than the initial rule setting limits at 0.002 pounds/GWh. Mercury emissions for units designed for low rank virgin coal were not opened for reconsideration.

The rule also limits filterable particulate matter emissions from all new coal-fired power plants at 0.09 pound/MWh and hydrogen chloride to .0.01 pound/MWh. The alternate emissions limitations set SO2 emissions at 1.0 pound/MWH, lead to .02 pound pound/GWh and selenium to .05 pound/GWh.

The EPA received 20 petitions for reconsideration of the MATS after the rules were issued in 2011 and announced in July 2012 it would be granting reconsideration of certain new source issues. The proposed updates for new power plants were published and opened for public comment in November of 2012.

The emission limits are expected to cost the industry around $9.6 billion to implement and have already had an effect on the building of new coal-fired power plants in the U.S. In February, officials from the proposed 1,320 MW White Stallion Energy Center, a $2.5 billion new coal-fired plant that would have been built near Houston, cited the rules as a reason the project was canceled.

To read the finalized rule, click here.

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