Metal-laden discharges from coal plants poorly regulated

Jul 26, 2013

A new report by the environmental group Sierra Club says at least three coal-fired power plants in Wyoming discharge pollution containing metals into streams. According to the report, some plants do not monitor how much waste they discharge or what it contains.

The Environmental Protection Agency says coal plants nationwide contribute more than half of the toxic pollutants discharged to water bodies by regulated industry, but discharge standards have not been updated since 1982. 

Staff attorney for the Sierra Club, Craig Segall, says the Clean Water Act is designed to let states take the lead in protecting streams.

“EPA was supposed to be updating the base-line federal standard really regularly to keep pace with changing technology. And it just didn’t do that for more than 30 years. In the absence of that, what the law says is supposed to happen was that state regulators were supposed to step up and set case by case limits for all the plants in their jurisdiction.  That just didn’t happen,” says Segall.    

The report comes on the heels of an EPA notice of proposed rulemaking to revise discharge limitations.