Sides line up in court over EPA’s new MATS rule

Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, which has several coal-fired power plants, on April 13 filed a legal challenge to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s new Mercury and Air Toxic Standards (MATS) rule.

The lawsuit asks the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to review the rule, which Tri-State said is not lawful under the Clean Air Act and will significantly increase electricity costs.

“The EPA’s MATS rule harms rural electric consumers,” said Ken Anderson, executive vice president and general manager of Tri-State. “The rule was developed in a flawed regulatory process, will impose substantial and unwarranted costs on existing plants, and will effectively prohibit the construction of new coal plants.”

Tri-State said it generates reliable and affordable electricity for its member electric cooperatives and complies with increasingly rigorous state and federal laws. Tri-State’s coal-fired power plants are low emitters of mercury and comply with stringent state mercury limits in Colorado and New Mexico. In fact, Tri-State said its Nucla plant in western Colorado is listed by the EPA in the database to establish the rule as having the lowest mercury emissions of any coal plant in the U.S. Yet the plant will still be burdened with additional regulatory requirements under the rule, the cooperative said.

“The EPA overstates the benefits of the rule and underestimates the costs,” said Anderson. “The rule is unworkable and has an unrealistic timeframe to implement.”

A comprehensive analysis by National Economic Research Associates found that the MATS rule and other finalized and pending EPA regulations for power plants using coal could cost an average of 183,000 jobs every year from 2012-2020 and increase electricity and other energy prices by $170bn, Tri-State said.

National Grid Generation sides with EPA

The Tri-State lawsuit joins various other appeals filed at the same court over the MATS rule. On April 16, National Grid Generation LLC filed a motion with the court to become an intervenor in these cases on the side of EPA. It noted that the first appeal was filed Feb. 16 by White Stallion Energy Center LLC, the developer of a coal-fired power project in Texas. The National Mining Association, which represents coal producers, and the National Black Chamber of Commerce and Institute for Liberty also petitioned for review.

The Utility Air Regulatory Group (UARG) filed two petitions, one seeking review of the rule and also review of EPA’s denial as part of the rule of UARG’s “de-listing petition.” Those petitions have been consolidated in this matter.

The MATS rule establishes national emission standards for hazardous air pollutants (NESHAPs) that apply to coal- and oil-fired electric utility steam generating units (EGUs) and that regulate the emissions of hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) with standards consistent with the requirements of section 112 of the Clean Air Act. MATS also revises new source performance standards (NSPS) for fossil fuel-fired EGUs and for industrial-commercial-institutional (ICI) and small ICI steam generating units, under section 111 of the Clean Air Act.

National Grid Generation said it owns and operates 53 natural gas- and oil-fired electric generating units capable of delivering approximately 4,000 MW of electricity to consumers throughout Long Island, New York. National Grid Generation owns and operates oil-fired EGUs directly affected by MATS. National Grid Generation also owns and operates EGUs that are not subject to MATS, but which are dispatched in electricity markets with generating units that are subject to the rule.

“National Grid Generation supports MATS and seeks to intervene in these proceedings to oppose the petitions for review, and to advocate for the implementation of the rule as promulgated by EPA, on the schedule set forth in the rule,” it said in the April 16 petition. “National Grid Generation has a distinct view to present to this court as an electric generator that has made strategic investments in low emission resources. National Grid Generation’s view contrasts with that of petitioners and other potential petitioners in the electric power industry.”

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.