The Environmental Protection Agency’s mercury and air toxics standards for new coal-fired power plants are so stringent that even the best-performing existing plants cannot meet them, energy companies that are developing five new plants are arguing (White Stallion Energy Center LLC v. EPA, D.C. Cir., No. 12-1272, brief filed 7/27/12).
The companies argued in a July 27 brief that the new source limits for mercury, particulate matter, and hydrogen chloride are so flawed that a federal court should vacate the limits entirely.
EPA appears to agree with some of the arguments and announced July 20 it would reconsider the standards. The agency had asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to hold in abeyance the legal challenges to the new source standards during the reconsideration process, but the companies have opposed delaying the case (141 DER A-16, 7/24/12).
In December 2011, EPA issued a final rule setting numeric emissions limits for mercury, filterable particulate matter as a surrogate for toxic metals, and hydrogen chloride as a surrogate for acid gases (77 Fed. Reg. 9,304; 246 DER AA-1, 12/22/11).
The emissions limits for new sources are more stringent than for existing sources, and issues specific to new plants are being litigated under an expedited briefing schedule, separately from other issues being raised in consolidated cases challenging the rule (White Stallion Energy Center LP v. EPA, D.C. Cir., No. 11-1302, response filed 7/3/12).
“[M]ore than five months after EPA issued the standards and stymied Petitioners in their efforts to commence construction of their projects (and only after this Court granted expedited review), EPA has recognized that these analytical flaws undermine the validity of the new source standards by announcing the Agency will, in the future, reconsider those standards,” the petitioners’ July 27 brief said. “This Court’s task in vacating the standards should not be difficult.”