A new rule slated to take effect soon will require greater transparency by the Environmental Protection Agency in the cost-benefit analysis it must perform before imposing costly clean air regulations on power plants.

The rule also would limit the EPA’s ability to justify a new rule using public health benefits that are not directly tied to the type of pollution it is seeking to regulate, said Dan Chartier, NRECA regulatory issues director.

For example, if EPA is seeking to regulate mercury, it needs to evaluate the costs and benefits, including the positive health impacts of reducing that pollutant. EPA can evaluate the benefit of other pollutants, such as soot, that may be reduced by regulating mercury but must separate the “co-benefits” that might result from that action.

“It makes it harder for the agency to support a rule based primarily on the co-benefits,” Chartier said. “If it’s a mercury rule, it should be based on mercury.”

The final rule is scheduled to take effect when it’s published in the Federal Register in the coming weeks, but it could face significant opposition in the new Biden administration.

NRECA, along with the American Public Power Association, filed comments in support of the initial version of the rule in August. NRECA sought input from generation and transmission cooperatives before filing the comments, Chartier said.

“We support the overall goals of EPA’s efforts to increase transparency and consistency in undertaking such analyses,” the associations wrote to EPA Director Andrew Wheeler on Aug. 3. “EPA’s efforts to provide the public with a clear understanding of how costs and benefits will be considered in a rulemaking proceeding represent good government practice and benefits both the regulated community and the public.”

NRECA and APPA also asked that the rule require any cost-benefit analysis of clean air regulations to spell out the impacts on small entities, such as electric co-ops.

However, the EPA said in its final rule that that wasn’t necessary. The agency said Clean Air Act rules already require the EPA to comply with the federal Regulatory Flexibility Act to consider the impact on small businesses.