Impending Legislation and Pollutants under Consideration for Regulation

Developing new or modifying current regulations of air pollutant emissions from coal-fired boilers is a continual process. This section summarizes impending legislation and pollutants under consideration for regulation and complements the previous discussion of possible NSR revisions. The following are discussed in this section: impending legislation for fine par-ticulate matter and mercury emissions, the Clear Skies Act of 2002 and multi-pollutant legislation under consideration, and global climate changes issues.

Fine Particulate Matter

Epidemiological research over the past 10 years has revealed a consistent statistical correlation between levels of airborne fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and adverse respiratory and cardiopulmonary effects in humans [31]. This has resulted in the EPA's promulgation of NAAQSs that limit the allowable mass concentrations of PM2.5 (see earlier discussion of current NAAQSs).

Attainment of the PM2.5 NAAQSs requires an annual average mass concentration of less than 15 mg/m3 and a daily maximum concentration of less than 65 mg/m3. The EPA and the states are now in the process of identifying attainment and nonattainment areas of the PM2.5 NAAQSs. Ambient PM2.5 has also been found to contribute significantly to the impairment of long-range visibility (regional haze) in many areas of the United States [32]. The EPA issued a Regional Haze Rule in 1999 that established goals for reducing regional haze in areas of the United States where long-range visibility has been determined to have exceptional value (Class I areas) and has outlined methods for achieving these goals [32].

It is generally recognized that coal-fired power plants can be important contributors to ambient PM2.5 mass concentrations and regional haze; therefore, it is very likely that the EPA and/or state and local air pollution control agencies will require additional restrictions of coal power plant emissions from 2005 to 2008 as they develop SIPs for achieving and/or maintaining compliance with the PM2.5 NAAQSs and the Regional Haze Rule [33]. However, specific requirements as to the types of pollutants to be reduced, and the timing, magnitude, and locations of these emissions restrictions have yet to be determined, although the process is underway to do this. The EPA provided guidance to state and local air pollution control agencies and tribes for designating areas for the purpose of implementing the PM2.5 NAAQSs and plans to issue the final designations on December 15, 2004 [34,35]. The EPA's timeline for their PM2.5 NAAQS implementation program is:

• September 2003—EPA issues proposed PM2.5 implementation rule;

• February 15, 2004—State and tribal recommendations are due for PM2.5 designations (recommendations can be based on 2002-2005 data);

• July 2004—The EPA notifies states and tribes concerning any modifications to their recommendations;

• September 2004—The EPA issues final PM2.5 implementation rule;

• December 15, 2004—The EPA issues final PM2.5 designations;

• December 2007—State implementation plans are due for PM2.5 nonattainment areas (3 years after designation date);

• December 2009-2014—PM2.5 standards must be attained by this date (5 years after designation date; an extension of up to 5 years is possible with an adequate demonstration).


The EPA prepared a Mercury Study Report, dated December 1997, which they submitted to Congress on February 24, 1998, as a requirement of Section 112(n)(1)(B) of the 1990 CAAAs [36]. The report provided an assessment of the magnitude of U.S. mercury emissions by source, the health and environmental implications of those emissions, and the availability and cost of control technologies. The report identified electric utilities as the largest remaining source of mercury emissions in the air, as the EPA has regulated mercury emissions from municipal waste combustors, medical waste incinerators, and hazardous waste combustion.

The EPA also submitted the Utility Hazardous Air Pollutant Report to Congress on February 24, 1998, in which the EPA examined 67 air toxics emitted from 52 fossil fuel-fired power plants and concluded that mercury is the air toxic of greatest concern [37]. Although not conclusive, the report finds evidence suggesting a link between utility emissions and the methylmercury found in soil, water, air, and fish from contaminated waters. The report identified the need for additional information on the amount of mercury in U.S. coals and mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants. Specifically, such data identified by the EPA included additional data on the quantity of mercury emitted from various types of generating units; the amount of mercury that is divalent versus elemental; and the effect of pollution control devices, fuel type, and plant configuration on emissions and speciation. To obtain these data, the EPA issued a three-part Information Collection Request (ICR) for calendar year 1999 [38]. Part I collected information on the size and configuration of all coal-fired utility boilers greater than 25 MW and their pollution control devices. Part II obtained data quarterly on the origin, quantity, and analysis of coal shipments delivered to the generating units (which totaled more than 1100), including a minimum of three analyses per month for mercury and chlorine contents, together with any other available analyses such as ash and sulfur contents and heating value. Part III required emission tests on 84 generating units selected at random from 36 categories representing different plant configurations and coal rank to measure total and speciated mercury concentrations in the flue gas before and after the final air pollution control device upstream of the stack.

On December 14, 2000, the EPA announced it would regulate mercury emissions from power plants [39]. On December 15, 2003, the EPA proposed a rule to permanently cap and reduce mercury emissions from power plants [6]. The schedule requires a final rule by December 2004 and implementation of controls by the end of 2007. The EPA is proposing two alternatives for controlling emissions of mercury and will take comment on the alternatives before taking final action. The first alternative requires utilities to install controls known as maximum achievable control technologies (MACTs) under Section 112 of the Clean Air Act. If implemented, this proposal will reduce nationwide emissions of mercury by 14tons (29% reduction of current levels) by the end of 2007. The second alternative establishes standards of performance limiting mercury emissions from new and existing units. This proposal, under Section 111 of the Clean Air Act, would create a market-based cap-and-trade program that, if implemented, would reduce nationwide utility emissions in two phases. In the first phase, extending to 2010, emissions would be reduced by taking advantage of co-benefit controls

(e.g., mercury reductions achieved by reducing SO2 and NO x emissions). When fully implemented in 2018, mercury emissions will be reduced by 33 tons (69% reduction from current levels).

Multi-Pollutant Legislation

For the last 5 years, Congress has discussed and started proposing legislation for more stringent control of power plant emissions, including SO2, NOx, mercury, and CO2. Recent proposals include the Clear Skies Initiative, Clean Power Act, and Clean Air Planning Act. The Clear Skies Initiative was the first of several multi-pollutant bills proposed and would create a mandatory program to reduce power plant emissions of SO2, NOx, and mercury by setting a national cap on each pollutant. Clear Skies was proposed in response to a growing need for an emission reduction plan that will protect human health and the environment while providing regulatory certainty to the industry. The program was submitted as proposed legislation in July 2002. The program was reintroduced in the U.S. House of Representatives (H.R. 999) and the U.S. Senate (S. 485) on February 27, 2003 [40].

The emission reductions from Clear Skies would help to alleviate air pollution-related health and environmental problems, including fine particles, ozone, mercury, acid rain, nitrogen deposition, and visibility impairment [41]. Specifically, Clear Skies would: (1) reduce SO2 emissions by 73%, from year 2000 emissions of 11 million short tons to a cap of 4.5 million short tons in 2010 and to a cap of 3 million short tons in 2018; (2) reduce NOx emissions by 67%, from year 2000 emissions of 5 million short tons to a cap of 2.1 million short tons in 2008 and to a cap of 1.7 million short tons in 2018; and (3) reduce mercury emissions, through a first-ever national cap on mercury emissions, by 69%, from 1999 emissions of 48 short tons to a cap of 26 short tons in 2010 and to a cap of 15 short tons in 2018. The reduction in emissions is illustrated in Figure 4-2.

Clear Skies, which is modeled on the cap-and-trade provisions of the Acid Rain Program of the 1990 CAAAs, would use an emission caps system that is predicted to [41]:

• Protect against diseases by reducing smog and fine particles, which contribute to respiratory and cardiovascular problems;

• Protect our wildlife, habitats, and ecosystem health by reducing acid rain, nitrogen, and mercury deposition;

• Deliver a rapid reduction in emissions with certain improvements in air quality;

• Enable power generators to continue to provide affordable electricity while quickly and cost-effectively improving air quality and the environment;

• Encourage the use of new and cleaner pollution control technologies that would further reduce compliance costs.

FIGURE 4-2. Emission levels of SO2, NOx, and mercury under the Clear Skies Act.

Clear Skies is expected to provide significant benefits to public health and the environment at a reasonable cost [41]. The EPA projects that, by 2020, the public health benefits alone would include avoiding more than 8400 to 14,000 premature deaths and saving $21 to $110 billion per year, depending on the methodology for calculating the health-related benefits. The annual cost of achieving the Clear Skies emission levels is projected at $6.3 billion. Americans would also experience approximately 30,000 fewer visits to the hospital and emergency room, 23,000 fewer nonfatal heart attacks, 1.6 million fewer work loss days, and 200,000 fewer school absences each year. Benefits of improvements in visibility in national parks and wildernesses in 2020 are projected to be $3 billion annually. In addition, by 2020, an estimated 77 counties with 26 million people would meet the fine particulate NAAQSs.

The future of the Clear Skies Act is unknown. Congressional Republican support for President Bush's planned legislation is becoming increasingly uncertain [42]. As of early July 2003, three bipartisan bills have been introduced in Congress that would reduce SO2, NOz, and mercury emissions to lower levels than the Clear Skies Initiative and on a faster timeline. In addition, the other bills have plans to limit CO2 emissions. Hearings are planned to explore criticisms of the Clear Skies Initiative before Congress decides whether to move the legislation forward [42].

Two other proposals receiving considerable attention include the Clean Power Act (S. 386) sponsored by Senator Jim Jeffords (Independent-Vermont) and the Clean Air Planning Act sponsored by Senators Tom Carper

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