Statement: EPA moves to protect waterways from toxic power plant pollution

Media Contacts
John Rumpler

Senior Director, Clean Water for America Campaign and Senior Attorney, Environment America Research & Policy Center

Coal power plant
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Reversing Trump administration rollback, proposed rule would dramatically reduce toxic substances power plants dump into rivers

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed a new rule on Wednesday to dramatically reduce heavy metals and other pollutants flowing from coal-fired power plants into the nation’s waterways. The proposed Steam Electric Power Generating Effluent Guidelines would slash this pollution by roughly 584 million pounds per year, according to the EPA. The rulemaking would also extend the deadline for coal plants to choose to cease operations by 2028.

Coal-fired power plants dump highly toxic substances including arsenic, mercury and selenium into America’s rivers, lakes, and streams. Some of these pollutants are linked to cancer in humans and threaten wildlife as well. The EPA had initially sought to curb this pollution in 2015, but its policy was reversed during the Trump administration.

The proposed rule would replace the Trump administration’s so-called “Toxic Water Rule.” Environment America Research and Policy Center and U.S. PIRG Education Fund called on President Joe Biden to do this in their “First Things to Fix” report, released just before his administration took office.

In response, experts from Environment America Research and Policy Center and U.S. PIRG Education Fund issued the following statements: 

“Fifty years after passage of the Clean Water Act, it’s hard to believe we’re still allowing anyone to dump toxic substances such as arsenic and mercury into the waters where Americans fish, swim or draw our drinking water,” said John Rumpler, senior clean water campaigns director at Environment America Research and Policy Center. “The EPA’s proposal sets us on the right course toward cleaner water in our rivers, lakes, and streams — and not a moment too soon.”

“The staggering amount of water pollution from these plants is yet one more reason why it makes no sense to get our energy from burning coal,” said Matt Casale, the director of U.S. PIRG Education Fund’s environment campaigns. “So, while these plants must clean up their acts as long as they operate, the EPA has wisely left the door open for their operators to simply stop burning coal.”