U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Scott Pruitt wrote that his agency will seek to revise guidelines from the Obama administration that mandate increased treatment for wastewater from coal power plants.
The announcement was part of a legal appeal that was released on Aug. 15.
The Associated Press reported that Pruitt, first moved in April to delay implementation of the new guidelines at the behest of electric utilities that opposed the stricter regulations that were proposed in 2015.
The regulation, finalized by former President Barack Obama’s EPA on Sept. 30, 2015, set the first federal limits on toxic wastewater discharge from power plants while taking into account technological improvements in the industry. The EPA estimated that the rule would reduce toxic metals and other discharged pollutants by 1.4 billion pounds. If implemented, the rule would cost about $480 million per year and its potential benefits are worth $451 million to $566 million, the agency says.
However, opponents to the rule argue the rule is too restrictive and could lead to the closure of coal-fired power plants and economic harm for small utilities.
“After carefully considering your petitions, I have decided that it is appropriate and in the public interest to conduct a rulemaking to potentially revise (the regulations),” Pruitt wrote in the letter addressed to the pro-industry Utility Water Act Group and the U.S. Small Business Administration.
Pruitt’s letter was filed with the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in New Orleans, LA which is hearing legal challenges of the wastewater rule.
With Pruitt now moving to rewrite the standards, EPA has asked to court to freeze the legal fight.
While that process moves ahead, EPA’s existing guidelines from 1982 remain in effect.