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EPA Rewrites Rules Limiting Water Pollution from Coal Plants

Revised rule postpones compliance deadlines for critical pollution safeguards
A power plant located next to a waterway.

Power plants are the biggest sources of water pollution in the country. Power plant water discharges are filled with toxic pollution such as mercury, arsenic, lead, and selenium.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Photo
September 13, 2017
Washington, D.C. —

Today, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it is taking further action to delay critical public health protections for cleaning up toxic water pollution from power plants. The EPA first began efforts to roll back the power plant wastewater standards in April, when EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt suspended  important limits on the amount of toxic pollutants such as arsenic, mercury, and lead that power plants are allowed to dump into our waters. The EPA action announced today would make a two-year delay of those public health protections a new part of federal regulations. During that two-year period, EPA intends to review the public health protections at industry’s request to consider further delaying and weakening them.

A coalition of public health and environmental groups, represented by Earthjustice, has been fighting in the courts to oppose the new EPA Administration’s attempts to delay and weaken the power plant toxic water rule.

“Coal-burning power plants are the number-one source of toxic water pollution in this country,” said Earthjustice attorney Thomas Cmar. “We know that this pollution can cause brain damage in children as well as cancer. Today’s action is a bold-faced gift to the coal industry at the expense of the health of families everywhere.”

In addition to announcing the rule today, the EPA also filed the rule with the federal district court in Washington, DC, where public health and environmental advocacy groups have been pursuing a legal challenge to EPA’s April action to suspend the toxic water pollution standards.  The EPA stated in today’s court filing that it intends to seek dismissal of the advocates’ lawsuit now that the Agency has taken additional action to delay the rule.  

The public health and environmental advocacy groups, which include Clean Water Action, Waterkeeper Alliance, and Sierra Club, now intend to ask the court to find that the EPA didn’t have legal authority to put the protections on hold.

Read the EPA’s pre-publication notification.


Thomas Cmar, Earthjustice, (312) 257-9338

We're the lawyers for the environment, and the law is on our side.