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We’re leading an all-out national mobilization to defeat the climate crisis.

Join our work today to help us build a thriving and just clean energy future. 

One Year Later: EPA’s Power Plant Pollution Plan—7 Critical Rules to Watch

It’s been a year since Administrator Regan announced EPA would deliver on key power sector rules. The next few months hold critical opportunities to keep the administration on track to protect communities from deadly power plant pollution.

EPA Administrator Michael Regan at an event in North Carolina on April 14, 2022.

Updated February 2024

Evergreen created the original EPA Report Card in October 2022, analyzing EPA’s progress on 10 key climate and air quality regulations for the power sector. At that time, EPA was noticeably falling behind on eight of these critical rules, all of which are instrumental in cutting pollution harming frontline communities and exacerbating the climate crisis. Since then, the report card has been updated in January 2023, March 2023, July 2023, and February 2024. 

This latest version welcomes EPA’s progress in finalizing a strong soot standard, which will protect thousands of people from dangerous pollution. However, the administration still has urgent work ahead, as five of these rules are at risk of not being finalized within President Biden’s first term—including rules for power plant carbon pollution, mercury, toxic water pollution, and coal ash.

Most urgently, EPA must quickly strengthen and finalize its proposal to regulate carbon pollution from new and existing power plants before April of this year. Otherwise, the rules are at risk of being permanently overturned by the Congressional Review Act. We’re down to the wire, and EPA has no time to waste.

Download the Updated Report Card

 


 

A year ago, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Michael Regan spoke at CERAWeek, an energy industry conference in Houston, Texas, where he unveiled a multi-pollutant power plant regulatory strategysomething Evergreen, NRDC, and other environmental groups have long been calling for.  

This week marked the start of CERAWeek 2023—where Administrator Regan will once again be speaking. But a year in, there is much more we need to do to clean up pollution in the power sector during President Biden’s first term. 

An analysis by Evergreen Action in January 2023 showed that EPA is falling behind on eight key climate change and air quality regulations for the power sector, with only two rules on track. To mark the anniversary of Regan’s announcement at CERAweek in 2022, Evergreen updated this analysis.

These delays mean there is now a huge amount of urgency to get strong rules proposed and finalized before the end of Biden’s first term—and with enough of a buffer to protect them from any Congressional Review Act threat. 

As of today, EPA has an ambitious schedule to move eight rules in the next three months, seven of which you can help shape. In order to get the job done, EPA must stick to their schedule. And the agency must set the strongest rules possible. 

 

Here are seven key power sector rules you can help shape in the months ahead:

Carbon Standards for New Power Plants 111(b) & Carbon Standards for Existing Power Plants 111(d)

In April, we expect proposals on the two most important rules for power plant carbon pollution. These rules would set carbon standards for new power plants, under Section 111(b) of the Clean Air Act, and carbon standards for existing power plants, under Section 111(d). These two carbon rules are likely the biggest remaining opportunities that President Biden has to reduce climate pollution in his first term. Air pollution from fossil fuel plants is harming the climate and our communities, and EPA must finalize ambitious 111(b) and 111(d) rules to meet President Biden’s promise of 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2035.

Need a refresher on the importance of the 111(b) and 111(d) rules? Our explainer video breaks it down.

Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) 

Sometime in March, we expect EPA to release their MATS Risk and Technology Review (RTR) proposal, which limits the amount of toxic chemicals that power plants can release. There is no safe level of these substances, which can cause irreversible cognitive development. EPA must propose and finalize a strong MATS RTR and set a stronger protective standard for mercury and air toxics emitted from coal- and oil-fired power plants. 

National Soot Standard

March 28th was the deadline to sign an official public comment demanding a stronger national soot standard. Soot causes up to 200,000 excess deaths in the U.S. per year and disproportionately harms communities of color, and yet, EPA’s current proposed rule allows for pollution levels well above those called for by health experts. This rule must be improved before being finalized. 

Closing Startup Shutdown and Malfunction Loopholes 

Also expected in March is a proposal for closing loopholes allowing pollution violations during power plant startup, shutdown, and malfunction (SSM). EPA must propose and finalize a strong rule as soon as possible, including further action to ensure state implementation plans address excess emissions associated with SSM.

Toxic Water Pollution Rule

On March 8, EPA proposed a rule on Effluent Limitation Guidelines (ELG). ELG refers to the regulation of pollution discharges from power plants into surface waters and wastewater treatment plants. The recent proposal will reverse exemptions and loopholes introduced by the Trump EPA in 2020, and protect the public from water pollutants that come from coal plants, including toxic heavy metals. The comment period to encourage EPA to keep this rule strong will be open for 60 days.

Coal Ash Rule

On May 5th, we expect a proposal for legacy ponds under the coal ash rule. EPA, however, has not yet indicated that it will close other important coal ash loopholes. EPA needs to expand the scope of the legacy storage ponds rule or issue a new rule closing all exemptions for legacy storage facilities, including for legacy landfills, and crack down on enforcement. Following the proposal, there will be a comment period to encourage EPA to keep this rule strong.  

Take Action: Tell EPA To Clean Up Climate Pollution

EPA has a legal obligation to protect Americans from climate pollution. Join Evergreen Action now to send a comment to EPA urging them to set the strongest-possible carbon pollution standards for power plants.