Moran, Ellison Lead Charge to Strengthen Clean Water
Washington D.C. -- Representative Jim Moran, Northern Virginia Democrat, Ranking Member on the House Appropriations Interior Subcommittee, and Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) were joined by 72 Members of Congress in urging EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy to finalize stricter clean water regulations, which would limit discharges from coal-fired power plants.
In the letter, the Members write to “encourage EPA to expeditiously move to finalize a toxic water pollution rule that would lead to zero discharge of dangerous pollution like arsenic, mercury, lead and selenium into our country’s rivers, lakes and streams.”
“Coal-fired power plants are responsible for over half the toxic pollution dumped into our rivers, lakes and streams every year; ruining hundreds of bodies of water across the country. While some utilities have invested in technologies that remove these harmful metals and toxins, too many rely on outdated and ineffective treatment methods that amount to holding contaminated water in ponds,” said Rep. Moran. “This practice has proven ineffective at separating the toxins produced from burning coal from the water that is eventually, and often accidentally, discharged into our sources of drinking water. Stronger EPA standards are critical for enforcing the use of modern, affordable treatment technologies that remove these hazards and protect our waterways.”
“Arsenic, mercury, lead, selenium and other toxics are discharged every day by coal-fired power plants into Minnesota’s lakes, streams, and rivers,” Rep. Ellison said. “A federal toxic water pollution standard that ends the dumping of toxic pollution will protect the waterways that are so important to Minnesota’s way of life and those communities already bearing a disproportionate burden of pollution.”
"More than 40 years after the Clean Water Act was passed, the coal industry is still polluting our water with impunity, thanks to a loophole that no other industry enjoys," said Michael Brune, Sierra Club Executive Director. "The EPA's strongest proposed approach to end special treatment for the coal industry just makes sense. It's affordable, and already being used by some coal plants to great success. Cleaning up coal pollution in our water will save lives, protect our children, and ensure that our water is safe to drink and that our fish safe to eat."
“For too long, the power plant industry has used our nation’s rivers, streams, lakes and bays, many of which are vital sources of drinking water for communities, as open sewers to dump their toxic-laden wastewater,” said Bob Wendelgass, President and CEO of Clean Water Action. “It is time for EPA to put drinking water first by requiring power plants to stop discharging their toxic pollution into our nation’s waterways.”
January 22, 2014
The Honorable Gina McCarthy
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Ariel Rios Building
1200 Pennsylvania Ave, N. W.
Washington, DC 20460
Re: Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OW-2009-0819
Dear Administrator McCarthy,
We are writing in support of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed Effluent Limitations Guidelines and Standards for the Steam Electric Power Generating Source Category. We encourage EPA to expeditiously move to finalize a toxic water pollution rule that would lead to zero discharge of dangerous pollution like arsenic, mercury, lead and selenium into our country’s rivers, lakes and streams.
Updated rules are needed because Steam Electric Power Plants are responsible for at least 50 to 60 percent of the toxic pollutants discharged annually into waters of the U.S. – more than the other top nine polluting industries combined. Despite the scope of this pollution problem, the existing standards have not been updated since 1982 and fail to set discharge limits on a long list of dangerous pollutants toxic to humans and aquatic life. According to EPA, this failure has led to over 160 water bodies not meeting state water quality standards, 185 waters with fish consumption advisories and the degradation of 399 water bodies across the country that are drinking water supplies.
The Clean Water Act requires states to set strong discharge standards for polluters in the absence of federal standards. Unfortunately, most state permitting agencies have failed to set limits in discharge permits for individual plants that reflect the best available treatment technology and protect water quality. Treatment technologies are available today that can achieve near zero discharge of pollution at a cost that is affordable to the industry as a whole; in fact, 80 percent of plants no longer discharge fly ash wastewater and 42 percent of plants have eliminated bottom ash wastewater discharges. The remaining plants that rely primarily on “settling ponds” to treat fly ash and bottom ash wastewater or sludge from flue gas desulphurization (“FGD”) systems, are decades behind updating to the best available technology. Absent a strong federal rule, the amount and toxicity of this waste stream is expected to increase as more plants install much needed smokestack “scrubbers” - systems that prevent toxic metals from going into the air. Use of these scrubbers can result in a concentrated, wet, toxic sludge that is typically placed in settling ponds that are ineffective at treating dissolved metals.
We encourage EPA to act swiftly to finalize a strong rule that will require power plants to drastically reduce the amount of toxics and other harmful pollutants they discharge into rivers, lakes, streams and bays. A strong rule resulting in zero discharge would eliminate billions of tons of unnecessary pollution a year, resulting in thousands of river miles that are safer to swim and fish in, and thousands of miles of cleaner drinking water sources.
 EPA, Environmental Assessment for the Proposed Effluent Limitations Guidelines and Standards for the Steam Electric Power Generating Point Source Category 3-14 (April 2013)
 33 U.S.C. § 1314 (b); 40 C.F.R. § 122.44(a)(1), 123.25, 125.3
 78 Fed. Reg. at 34,439; 34,470