The "Air Pollution Management" Newsletter

June 2008
No. 362

MACT for Toxics

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit negated a rule known as Clean Air Mercury Rule (CAMR). That policy allows power plants that fail to meet emission targets to buy credits from plants that did, rather than having to install their own mercury emissions controls. The rule was to go into effect in 2010. The court struck down the cap-and-trade policy and the Environmental Protection Administration's plan to exempt coal- and oil-fired power plants from regulations requiring strict emissions control technology to block emissions.

New Jersey challenged the policy in federal court. Joining New Jersey in the lawsuit were California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Wisconsin. The agency defended the rule, saying it represented the nation's first attempt to control such emissions and would reduce mercury emissions by 70 percent. The three-judge panel agreed with the States that the EPA did not have the authority to exempt the power plants. The court unanimously ruled that EPA's arguments were "not persuasive". The states argued that the cap-and-trade system would endanger children near some power plants that pollute but which also use credits to do it legally. "This means the EPA is going to have to go back and do a real job of regulating all the toxics coming out of these plants," said attorney James S. Pew, who argued on behalf of several environmental organizations that filed documents in the case.

What are the implications for utilities? CAMR did not have any immediate impact on controls since it relied on co-benefits for the next eight years. The states are the ones who are setting the early adoption of technology in any case. The best guess at this point is that all plants will have to meet 90 percent mercury removal or some weight equivalent to 90 percent removal from the average unit at some point in time. But since best available control technology is necessary, it will also need to be applied to the other heavy metals including cadmium, selenium, chromium etc. The TOXECON approach, wet precipitators, and certain other technologies which remove both particulate metals and gaseous phase metals in one unit will enjoy larger markets.

The ruling’s greatest impact may be the implication that all air toxics including hydrogen chloride have to be reduced under the hazardous air pollution part of the CAA. Every coal-fired power plant passes the 10 ton/yr HCl threshold. This means that best available control technology will have to be applied to make reductions. This would then mean that scrubbers would have to be installed on all units.

The reason is that in order to remove HCl you need a scrubber. It would not be cost effective to remove HCl without removing the SO2. So the odds are ten to one that sometime within the 15 years any plant which does not have scrubbers would need to install them just because of the Toxic MACT requirements.


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