Letter to Lisa Jackson, Administrator Environmental Protection Agency - Separate Subcategory for Waste Coal Plants

Today, U.S. Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Pat Toomey (R-PA) called on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to create a separate subcategory for waste coal plants in new regulations that could otherwise cause them to close. In a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, Casey and Toomey said that Pennsylvania waste coal plants make an important environmental contribution by reducing coal refuse piles in the state. But Pennsylvania's waste coal plants need the agency's new regulations to better reflect the unique nature of cleaning up waste coal.

Casey and Toomey's letter was joined by several members of Pennsylvania's delegation, including Representatives: Mark Critz (D-PA) Jason Altmire (D-PA), Tim Holden (D-PA) Glenn Thompson (R-PA), Lou Barletta (R-PA), Tom Marino (R-PA), Charlie Dent (R-PA) and Bill Shuster (R-PA).

In Pennsylvania, 14 affected waste coal plants help reduce coal refuse that is located in abandoned piles in communities across the state, which improves the environment and livability in countless cities and towns. As the companies continue to reduce waste coal, the EPA has set new emissions standards for utilities. Pennsylvania's plants have low mercury emissions and are on track to meet the new standards, yet one aspect of the new rule does not recognize the unique nature of the waste coal business: the fact that the hydrochloric acid (HCl) standard could push these plants out of business.

"Pennsylvania's waste coal plants are making important contributions to communities across the state by creating jobs and improving the environment. It's important that the EPA takes this commonsense step to allow Pennsylvania companies to continue to grow the economy while reducing emissions," Sen. Casey said. "It's time EPA give Pennsylvania's waste coal companies the certainty they need to continue their work."

"As Pennsylvania's waste coal plants continue to make strides in reducing coal refuse, it is important that the EPA fully recognizes their environmental benefits and unique operations," Sen. Toomey said. "Without this commonsense change, many of Pennsylvania's waste coal plants may be forced to close their doors, hurting our state's already fragile economy and costing us jobs."

Casey and Toomey's letter asks the EPA to recognize the role that waste coal plants play in reducing the amount of waste coal in communities across the state and to tailor the regulation to allow waste coal plants to continue their work as they move forward with reducing emissions.

The Senators wrote, "We are concerned about the effect that the current HCl emission limit could have on the ability of these plants to operate because this industry provides so many benefits to people and the environment. This industry provides the only current viable option for removing coal refuse stockpiles from the environment without shifting such costs to public sources. Should that option become unavailable, the entire responsibility for removal and clean-up would fall on taxpayers and the government, a task the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has testified would cost billions of dollars and take over 500 years to accomplish."

The full copy of Casey and Toomey's letter can be seen below:

The Honorable Lisa Jackson
Administrator
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20460

Dear Administrator Jackson:

We are writing in regard to the 14 coal-refuse-to-energy plants that are located in Pennsylvania and are affected by the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards ("MATS rule"). These plants provide unique environmental benefits by using state-of-the-art circulating fluidized bed ("CFB") technology to convert coal refuse into energy. The coal refuse these plants use is derived from both past and current mining activities. Operation of these plants results in the reclamation of idle or abandoned mine lands and strip mines as well as the abatement of acid mine drainage from these lands, all at no cost to taxpayers.

We have been informed that the coal refuse to energy plants can meet the MATS mercury standard and that these plants are so effective in removing mercury that such emissions are typically measured in ounces per year, some of the lowest levels in the country. We have also been told that the plants can meet the MATS particulate matter emission rate which is used as a surrogate for the non-mercury HAP metals. However, we have been informed that the EPA study conducted by Sargent & Lundy (used as a basis for the MATS rule) did not consider the effects of the MATS HCl standard on coal refuse fired CFB boilers. Consequently, the plant operators state that they cannot economically meet the MATS rule HCl emission limit.

Fuel switching is not an option for these plants as that would end the environmentally beneficial reclamation results that the industry produces. Thus, we ask you to consider modifying the MATS rule through the creation of a subcategory-specific HCl emission limitation so that these sources may continue to provide critical environmental benefits in Pennsylvania. This request aligns with the approach that EPA has taken toward sub-categorization under other MACT regulations.

We are concerned about the effect that the current HCl emission limit could have on the ability of these plants to operate because this industry provides so many benefits to people and the environment. This industry provides the only current viable option for removing coal refuse stockpiles from the environment without shifting such costs to public sources. Should that option become unavailable, the entire responsibility for removal and clean-up would fall on taxpayers and the government, a task the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has testified would cost billions of dollars and take over 500 years to accomplish.

These plants work closely with a variety of local watershed groups to reclaim abandoned mine lands and convert polluted streams into clean and useable waterways. We have been informed that since the plants' inception, approximately 189 million tons of coal refuse has been removed from surface lands, over 6,700 acres of land has been reclaimed and hundreds of miles of streams have been restored to support aquatic life. These results have produced positive environmental and safety benefits and have energized local volunteer watershed groups into leveraging these reclamation efforts in conjunction with their activities.

Besides the environmental benefits, these plants directly employ over 1,000 people, with additional thousands employed indirectly. We believe the economic stimulus from the plants to economically distressed areas of Pennsylvania is considerable. Removal of waste coal piles across Pennsylvania also benefits communities that have long lived with the legacy of problems associated with abandoned "gob" and "culm" piles that were created before environmental regulations existed.

In order to ensure that coal-refuse-to-energy plants are able to continue providing critical environmental benefits, we ask you to consider a subcategory-specific HCl emission limitation under the MATS rule. Thank you for your consideration of this matter. We look forward to your response and to working with you in the future.

Robert P. Casey, Jr.
United States Senator

Patrick J. Toomey
United States Senator