Environmental Permitting

MATS Rule Overview

In this Environmental Daily Advisor video, Advisor editor Kelly Lagana talks with Tim Fagan about EPA’s Final Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) for Power Plants. Tim Fagan is the editor for air topics for BLR’s environmental compliance content.

KL: This is Kelly Lagana for the Environmental Daily Advisor. We’re talking today with Tim Fagan. He is the legal editor for the air topics for BLR’s environmental compliance content. Thanks for joining us today.

TF: Thank you.

KL: I wanted to talk to you about the new MATS rule. EPA finalized the new MATS rule. It was a court-ordered deadline that happened in December 2011, and this regulated emissions for power plants. Can you talk a little about the MATS rule and how it affected sources?

TF: EPA refers to the rule as the Mercury and Air Toxics Rule. It is officially the National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants or NESHAP for Coal- and Oil-fired Electric Utility Steam Generating Units. These requirements are found under 40 CFR 63, which require the installation of what is referred to as Maximum Achievable Controlled Technology or MACT. As a result, the rule is sometimes referred to as Utility MACT.

The regulation establishes emission limits for Hazardous Air Pollutants or HAPs, from coal- and oil-fired electric utility steam generating units larger than 25 megawatts that produce electricity for consumption by the public. These units are referred to in the rule as EGUs or Electric Generating Units.

Also, as part of this rule-making, EPA has amended the new source performance standards under 40 CFR 60 for steam generating units. EPA estimates that the Mercury and Air Toxics Rule is going to affect about 1400 units at 600 power plants across the country.

KL: Wow.

TF: These power plants represent half of the mercury emissions, and three-quarters of the acid gas emissions in the United States. The power plants are also the leading emitters of various other HAPs. Under the rule, the EGUs will be required to meet emissions limitations for mercury, hydrochloric acid, hydrofluoric acid, sulfur dioxide, as well as antimony, arsenic, beryllium, cadmium, chromium, cobalt, lead, manganese, nickel, and selenium.

Under the MATS provisions, the emission limits are set at a level that is as stringent as the emission reductions achieved by the top 12% of sources in that source category. EPA believes that some of these sources are already meeting these emission limits, but obviously some expensive control devices are going to need to be installed to be in full compliance.

KL: Now, what’s the compliance timeline for this? What’s EPA looking at?

TF: New sources, which are any units which began construction after May 3rd, 2011, they must be in compliance within 60 days after the rule is published in the federal register, or upon startup, whichever is later.

Existing units, meaning any unit constructed on or before May 3rd, 2011, the majority of units, they have three years, plus 60 days from the date of publication in the federal register. There is also a possibility that they could be granted a one year extension to install the control devices.

EPA has a mechanism for a fifth year, an extension to a fifth year if need be, but they don’t foresee people needing that. Industry seems to disagree. Industry has voiced concern over the compliance schedule. They believe that the installation of these needed multi-million dollar control devices can often take more than five years.

KL: Thank you for joining us today and explaining this MATS Rule for us.

TF: No problem.