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US EPA finalizes mercury, air toxics rule for new power plants


The US Environmental Protection Agency on Friday finalized its mercuryand air toxics standards for new power plants, setting emissions limits formercury, particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, acid gases and certain metals.

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EPA said the rule would "require new power plants to be among the mostmodern and cleanest ever built."

The finalized rule sets mercury emissions limits at 0.003 pound/GWh, aslightly higher rate than the 0.002 pound/GWh EPA initially set in December2011.

Industry groups had complained that EPA's December 2011 rule would haveprevented new coal-fired power plants from being built, since mercuryemissions could not be reliably measured at such low concentrations.

The agency agreed in July 2012 to a "reconsideration" of the rule due tothe complaints, and Friday's action finalizes the revisions.

Besides mercury, the finalized rule limits filterable particulate matteremissions from new coal-fired power plants to 0.09 pound/MWh and hydrogenchloride to 0.01 pound/MWh.

Sulfur dioxide is limited to 1.0 pound/MWh from coal-fired power plants,and lead is restricted to 0.02 pound/GWh.

"We project that these updates will result in no significant change incosts, emission reductions or health benefits" from its original December2011 rule, EPA said in a fact sheet.

The mercury emissions limits for new power plants are more stringentthan EPA has set for existing power plants.

The agency is facing litigation over its MATS rules for new and existingpower plants, with the US Court of Appeals for the District of ColumbiaCircuit taking up a petition from utilities and other groups, White StallionEnergy Center v. EPA.

The utilities, which have asked the court to strike down the rules, saythe MATS regulations will endanger grid reliability by forcing the shutdownand retirements of several coal-fired power plants. The industry hasestimated the rules will cost at least $10 billion.

The DC Circuit had suspended legal challenges in the case while EPA wasperforming its reconsideration of the rule for new power plants.

--Herman Wang, by Lisa Miller,