Jul 27, 2021

EPA Announces Intent to Strengthen Limits on Water Pollution from Power Plants

EPA found that there are opportunities to strengthen certain wastewater pollution discharge limits.


The U.S. EPA announced that it is initiating a rule-making process to strengthen certain wastewater pollution discharge limits for coal power plants that use steam to generate electricity. 

This decision comes after EPA undertook a science-based review of the 2020 Steam Electric Reconsideration Rule under Executive Order (E.O.) 13990, according to EPA’s news release.

Based on this review, EPA found that there are opportunities to strengthen certain wastewater pollution discharge limits, including treatment systems using membranes as an option for treating a wide variety of industrial pollution.

According to EPA, this technology will continue advancing and the agency will evaluate its availability as part of the new rule-making.

“EPA is committed to science-based policy decisions to protect our natural resources and public health,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan in the EPA news release. “In conducting a review of the 2020 rule as directed by President Biden, EPA determined that moving forward with implementing the existing regulations would ensure that water resources are protected now, while we quickly move to strengthen water quality protections and further reduce power plant pollution that can contain toxic metals such as mercury, arsenic, and selenium.”


The current regulations will be implemented and enforced until the new rulemaking process to strengthen water pollution requirements for coal power plants is ready.

The 2020 rule made modifications to only certain aspects of the 2015 Steam Electric Effluent Limitation Guidelines (ELGs) rule, including requirements enacted in 2015 and 2020 which are currently in effect. 

According to EPA, the 2015 and 2020 rules are leading to better control of water pollution from power plants while reducing the cost of controls.

EPA also signed a Federal Register Notice to announce its intent to initiate this rulemaking process. The Department of Justice in coordination with EPA is filing a request to the Court to hold the litigation in abeyance and the agency intends to issue a proposed rule for public comment in the fall of 2022.

To read EPA’s notice and learn more about Steam Electric ELGs, visit: https://www.epa.gov/eg/steam-electric-power-generating-effluent-guidelines.

Read related content about industrial water: