Report: Coal-fired plants have the tools to comply with proposed EPA clean air rules


Proven pollution control technologies are widely available that will enable coal-fired power plants to meet the requirements of recently proposed U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) clean air rules aimed at reducing harmful air pollutants, including ground-level ozone (smog), fine particles, mercury, arsenic, lead and acid gases, according to a new report from Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management (NESCAUM). 

The report, Control Technologies to Reduce Conventional and Hazardous Air Pollutants from Coal-Fired Power Plants, prepared by James E. Staudt, Ph.D., Andover Technology Partners and M.J. Bradley & Associates LLC, details the proven, commercially available emission control technologies, including scrubbers, baghouses and dry sorbent injection, which will enable coal-fired power plants to comply with two major rules recently proposed by the EPA to control air pollution and protect public health—the Transport Rule and the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (Air Toxics Rule). 

Among the report’s key findings: 

• The electric power sector has extensive experience installing and operating advanced pollution control systems. The first scrubber to reduce sulfur oxides was installed in 1968. The first catalyst system to reduce nitrogen oxides (NOx) was installed in 1993. Over the intervening years, many coal plants have now installed modern controls. 

• Modern pollution controls can dramatically reduce toxic air emissions, including mercury—by 90 percent or more. 

• The electric power sector has demonstrated that it is capable of planning for and installing pollution controls on a large portion of the nation’s generating capacity in a relatively short period of time. Between 2008 and 2010, the industry added about 60 gigawatts (GW) of scrubbers and 20 GW of NOx catalyst systems.

• Labor and technology organizations are confident that they have the capacity to install the necessary controls on the schedules required by EPA’s rules. 

• A range of control options are available for companies to cost-effectively comply with EPA’s rules. 

“The northeast states have been at the forefront of efforts to control NOx, SO2, mercury and other coal plant emissions,” said Arthur Marin, Executive Director of NESCAUM. “We know from experience that the technologies work, that they can be cost-effectively deployed on power plants large and small, and that we all benefit from cleaner air.” 

On March 16, EPA announced its long delayed Air Toxics Rule, which will establish, for the first time, national limits on hazardous air pollutant emissions from coal-fired power plants. The Clean Air Transport Rule, proposed by EPA in July 2010, is designed to reduce the interstate/downwind transport of harmful air pollution from power plants in the eastern half of the United States. 

“The Toxics Rule is long overdue,” Marin said. “The technologies are commercially available and ready to deploy. We encourage EPA to move forward with its proposed rules that will protect public health and the environment.”
The electric power sector also has the experience and manpower to install and operate these technologies, as stated in recent letters to Senator Carper from unions that install and companies that manufacture air pollution control equipment. 

According to Dr. James Staudt of Andover Technology Partners, “The owners of coal-fired power plants have a range of technologies available to them to meet the demands of air pollution control regulations. Over the last ten years the industry has demonstrated tremendous skill in installing advanced pollution controls on existing units, and this was in part due to good planning by utilities in anticipation of those regulations. With this in mind, I am confident that the industry is capable of meeting the requirements of the Air Toxics Rule in the three year time frame required by the Clean Air Act.” 

“Electric companies are well-equipped to implement cost‐effective compliance solutions without impacting the reliability of the electric system,” said Michael J. Bradley, President of M.J. Bradley & Associates. “The electric industry has known for over a decade that these rules were coming. Timing is just not a viable excuse to delay implementing rules that will generate important health benefits.” 

Download a copy of the report: 

Control Technologies to Reduce Conventional and Hazardous Air Pollutants from Coal-Fired Power Plants

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