EPA Agrees with Advocacy Request to Reconsider 2015 Steam Electric Utility Rule

By Kevin Bromberg, Assistant Chief Counsel


In a major early victory for small business, in response to Advocacy’s April 5 petition for reconsideration, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has agreed to reconsider a costly rule that adversely affected small electric utilities without commensurate environmental benefits.  This is one of the first rules considered for modification by the new EPA Administrator, Scott Pruitt.

This regulation promulgated in November 2015 potentially affects hundreds of utilities (already controlled by current regulations) that generate wastewater at steam electric power plants that enters into US waters.   Advocacy petitioned EPA to reconsider this rule in order to reduce unnecessary economic impacts on small entities, including small independently owned utilities, small rural electric utilities, and small municipally owned utilities, and to improve the cost-effectiveness of this rule.  The current final rule would likely force closures of a significant number of coal-fired utilities, and adversely affect mining and utility jobs and rural communities that depend on these plants.  This is exactly the type of rule targeted by the President’s new Executive Order 13771 to revise costly regulations that are not justified by their benefits.  A revision of this rule could result in annual savings of $300 million or more by EPA’s own estimate, without significant diminution of the environmental benefits.

EPA plans to engage in notice and comment rulemaking to identify which portions of the regulation it will modify and how. The Fifth Circuit has agreed to stay the litigation for 120 days until August 12.  EPA is expected to notify the court regarding its plans for rule modifications by the end of that period.

The Advocacy letter can be found at  https://www.sba.gov/advocacy/04-05-2017-effluent-limitations-guidelines-and-standards-steam-electric-power-generating.