Citing potential power plant shutdowns and higher power costs, NRECA is urging the Environmental Protection Agency to reconsider new technology-based limits on wastewater discharges from coal-based generation, which come on the heels of the agency's last effluent limitations guidelines and standards.

“EPA must take into account the significant investments co-ops have made to comply with the 2020 ELG rule," said Viktoria Seale, NRECA regulatory affairs director. “If finalized as proposed, the new rule would not only hike costs for reliable electricity but put supply at risk by leaving no economical alternative to premature power plant shutdowns."

In comments filed May 30, NRECA told the agency that it is unnecessary and unwarranted to propose a new rulemaking so soon after its 2020 rule that already imposes substantial costs on electric cooperatives. EPA should first account for recent co-op investments in wastewater treatment equipment to fulfill the agency's current rule and address its technological and economic concerns, NRECA said.

“The weight of any co-op stranded asset is likely to negatively impact affordability and reliability and make investing in cleaner energy resources more challenging,” NRECA said.

EPA is expected to finalize its proposed rule next year.

NRECA also told the agency that its 60-day public comment period is inadequate given the proposal's complexity and raised 16 specific concerns.

For example, the proposal would include more stringent limits for three wastewaters from power plants and require zero discharge for all pollutants in flue gas desulfurization wastewater and bottom ash transport water. This would reverse the 2020 rule's determination on what is the “best available technology economically achievable" to control flue gas desulfurization wastewater and require completely closed-loop systems for bottom ash transport water.

The proposal also would establish a new set of definitions for various legacy wastewaters that have existed for a while.

Further, EPA would adopt a national uniform standard for combustion residual leachate— wastewater that may seep through a landfill or ash pond and is eventually discharged—rather than allow state authorities to address each case.

Overall, the new ELG rule would “waste significant resources, including the millions of dollars of costs, time, and work that has been invested in planning, receiving approval, financing, contracting, engineering, testing, and installing systems to comply with the 2020 ELG Rule," NRECA said in its comments.