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EPA Takes Bold Steps To Curb Toxic Wastewater From Coal-Fired Plants

The Biden administration has proposed a new plan to put stricter limits on wastewater pollution from coal-burning power plants in a significant step towards environmental protection. 

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets standards under the Clean Water Act to restrict wastewater discharge from this industry and other businesses, the Trump administration relaxed those regulations so companies could use cheaper technologies and take longer to comply with guidelines for cleaning coal ash and toxic heavy metals such as mercury, arsenic, and selenium from plant wastewater before dumping it into waterways.

The new proposal aims to set stricter standards for coal-burning plants while urging them to retire or switch to other fuels like natural gas by 2028. EPA Administrator Michael Regan believes that this plan would particularly benefit low-income communities that have been disproportionately affected by pollution from coal-fired power plants. He also stated that it would give "greater certainty for industry."

This move comes after years of environmental degradation caused by power plants' emissions into our air and water. These emissions have contributed significantly to climate change, acid rain, and contaminated water sources in many regions.

The proposal addresses three types of wastewater generated at coal-fired power plants: scrubbers that remove pollutants from exhaust systems; water used to flush out boilers at the bottom of a plant; and coal ash ponds that often leach into nearby waterways.

Sierra Club attorney Joshua Smith praised the changes as "a big step in the right direction" for forcing hundreds of coal-fired power plants across the country to take responsibility for pollution surrounding communities have long borne. 

He added that technologies used to eliminate discharges highlighted by Biden administration officials have come a long way since a 2015 Obama-era rule that was rolled back under former President Donald Trump.

On the other hand, the National Mining Association criticized the plan, stating that it would force utilities to make decisions based solely on EPA's environmental agenda and called the approach "plainly irresponsible." However, Edison Electric Institute applauded EPA's "coordinated and holistic" approach towards regulating the power sector but said they were still reviewing their proposal.

Officials stated that at least one coal-fired power plant in America would likely close down due to these new regulations but did not provide any further details. This will undoubtedly impact jobs in those areas where these facilities are located; however, it is essential to prioritize public health over economic interests.

The proposal is expected to be finalized in 2024; however, it already signals a positive move towards protecting our environment and ensuring clean water access for all Americans.

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By Michael Kern for Oilprice.com 

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