EPA Final Rule for Coal Plants

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s ruled this week to curb toxic emissions from coal-fired power plants.

The regulation, the most-expensive order aimed at companies being considered by President Barack Obama’s administration, was signed by the agency Dec. 16 and is set to be published as early as today or tomorrow. Industry groups had urged the EPA to give companies an additional year to comply.

“The final rule is expected to be pretty close to the proposed rule, which is unfortunate,” Scott Segal, a lobbyist at Bracewell & Giuliani LLC in Washington, representing operators of coal-fired plants such as Southern Co. (SO), said yesterday in an e-mail. The “rules will impose significant costs on consumers and on industries that depend on affordable and reliable power to remain competitive.”

The rule, estimated to cost $11 billion when proposed by the EPA this year, was initiated after a federal court threw out standards issued by the Bush administration to limit mercury pollution. Under the proposal, plants have three years to install controls curbing the release of toxic materials when coal is burned to generate electricity.

The final regulation includes details for how companies such as American Electric Power Co. (AEP) and Southern can apply for additional time to cut emissions of mercury, arsenic and acid gases, said Howard Learner, executive director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center in Chicago.

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