04/22/2020 - Joseph Goffman

EPA Gives Utilities A Headache With Mercury Rule Revision

Tag: Law360

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency opened a Pandora’s box for utilities with an about-face on the justification underpinning an Obama-era rule limiting coal-fired power plants’ mercury emissions, including the potential that ratepayers will try to claw back what they paid for utilities to comply with the rule. Experts say that at best, the EPA’s finalized cost-benefit analysis of its Mercury and Air Toxics Standards rule is an empty gesture to utilities. The EPA said it’s not “appropriate or necessary” to regulate hazardous air pollutants from coal and oil-fired plants under Section 112 of the Clean Air Act, but the rule remains in place and utilities have already spent billions to comply with it…EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said Thursday that the agency is prepared to defend in court its decision to keep the MATS rule — which was enacted in 2012 and required utilities to comply by 2015 — in place…Experts say the EPA could have really cut the legs out from under the MATS rule by also removing power plants from the list of pollution source categories subject to regulation under Section 112, but ultimately decided not to. “Although there is still some chance that the coal industry will challenge the standards on the grounds that the appropriate and necessary finding is gone, their prospects for success are dimmer now,” said Joseph Goffman, an Obama-era EPA official who is now the executive director of Harvard Law School’s Environmental and Energy Law Program.

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