Skip navigation.

Report Recommends Cutting Energy and Agricultural Subsidies

August 31, 2011


The old saying that politics makes strange bedfellows is spot on when it comes to describing a recent report titled Green Scissors 2011. The report, which is to be delivered to the super committee created by the bi-partisan compromise over raising the federal debt ceiling, was co-authored by the Friends of the Earth, the Heartland Institute, Public Citizen, and Taxpayers for Common Sense.


Petition for Review of Cross-State Air Pollution Rule Filed

August 30, 2011

EME Homer City Generation, an electric generator in Pennsylvania, has asked the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to review the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule. This first legal challenge to the EPA’s rule comes less than two months after its promulgation.

The rule, effective Oct. 7, requires 27 states, including Wisconsin, to significantly reduce power plant emissions that cross state lines and contribute to ozone and fine particulate pollution in other states, beginning in January 2012.

EME Homer City Generation is currently being sued by the EPA for allegedly failing to comply with Clean Air Act New Source Review requirements by making major modifications to the boiler units at the power plant and continuing to operate without first obtaining appropriate permits and installing and operating the best available pollution control technologies to reduce sulfur dioxide and particulate matter.

On August 23, EME Homer City Generation asked the court to review CSAPR in relation to the pending case. On August 25, the company also filed a request for a stay of CSAPR while the case is pending. Alternatively, if the court does not grant the stay, EME Homer City Generation requested expedited review of the case.

EME Homer City Generation may be the first challenge to CSAPR, but it is unlikely to be the only party challenging the EPA’s new rule in the courts. The Texas Attorney General recently indicated that Texas “will pursue every available legal remedy” to halt the rule’s implementation.

This post was authored by GLLF staff attorney Emily Kelchen.

EPA Proposes New Water Cooling Regulations

August 29, 2011

On August 18, 2011, EPA closed the comment period on a proposed rule that sets cooling water intake standards under section 316(b) of the Clean Water Act for all existing power generating facilities and existing manufacturing and industrial facilities.

Under the proposed standard any cooling water intake structure that withdraws at least two million gallons per day of cooling water will have an upper limit on how many fish can be injured or killed by being pinned against the intake screens or will be required to reduce the water intake velocity to 0.5 feet per second.

Facilities that withdraw at least 125 million gallons per day would be required to conduct studies to help their permitting authority determine what controls would be required to reduce the amount of aquatic life affected by the cooling water systems.

This proposed standard is part of a group of rules known as the EPA's Regulatory Train Wreck.

More information regarding the new water cooling regulations is available here.


This post was authored by GLLF’s intern, Lane Oling, a 2L at the University of Wisconsin Law School.


Ozone Standards Update

August 26, 2011

The contentious battle over the EPA’s proposed ozone standard revisions is heating up in the courts and at the grassroots level, with both sides arguing that uncertainty is hurting the economy. The EPA, however, continues to keep the nation guessing about what standards will apply in the coming months as they again delayed the final rules.



Water Effluent Limits for Steam Electric Power Generating

Most Recent Action

The EPA entered a consent decree with environmental groups that provided the EPA would propose a rule by July 23, 2012, and finalize it by January 31, 2014. However, the most recent extension, giving the EPA until April 19, 2013 to propose a rule, is the third granted to the EPA. A final rule would be required by May 22, 2014.


Under the Clean Water Act, EPA establishes national technology-based regulations, or “effluent guidelines,” to reduce pollutant discharge from industries into U.S. waters. The guidelines are industry specific.

The steam electric effluent guidelines apply to steam electric power plants using nuclear or fossil fuels, such as, oil, coal or natural gas. There are approximately 1,200 nuclear and fossil-fuel steam electric power plants in the United States.

Based on findings from an EPA multi-year study of the Steam Electric Power Generating industry, the EPA plans to review current effluent guidelines. During the study, EPA reviewed wastewater discharges from power plants and concluded that the 1982 effluent guidelines were outdated and insufficient. EPA’s decision to review the effluent guidelines was announced on September 15, 2009. During the course of the study, EPA identified certain technologies that could significantly reduce pollutant discharge.

Twice, the EPA requested public comment on a draft questionnaire to be distributed to specific plants within the scope of a potential proposed rule. The second round of public comment ended March 9, 2010. The purpose of the questionnaire was to collect general information about plants and the technologies used in plant processes and the electric generating units.

This rule is part of a group of rules known as the EPA's Regulatory Train Wreck.


Sections 301; 304(b), (c), (e), and (g); 306(b) and (c); 307(b) and (c); and 501, Clean Water Act (Federal Water Pollution Control Act Amendments of 1972, as amended by Clean Water Act of 1977).


The current effluent guidelines were established in 1982.

Related Documents

40 CFR 423 – Steam Electric Power Generating Point Source Category

Development Document for Final Effluent Guidelines, New Source Performance Standards and Pretreatment Standards for the Steam Electric Power Generating Point Source Category (1982)

Frequently Asked Questions

EPA’s Study of the Steam Electric Power Generating Industry, October 26, 2009



Water Cooling Regulations

Most Recent Action

The Obama administration has extended the deadline for setting a final rule on cooling water structures for industrial facilities to July 27, 2013.


Under a settlement agreement with environmental organizations, the EPA divided the section 316(b) rulemaking into three phases.

All new facilities except offshore oil and gas exploration facilities were addressed in Phase I in December 2001; all new offshore oil and gas exploration facilities were later addressed in June 2006 as part of Phase III. Existing large electric-generating facilities were addressed in Phase II in February 2004 and existing small electric-generating and all manufacturing facilities were addressed in Phase III in June 2006. However, Phase II and the existing facility portion of Phase III were remanded to EPA for reconsideration as a result of legal proceedings.

The April 2011 proposal combines Phases II and III into one rule, and provides a holistic approach to protecting aquatic life impacted by cooling water intakes at existing electric generating and manufacturing facilities.

The proposed rule covers roughly 1,260 existing facilities that each withdraws at least 2 million gallons per day of cooling water. The EPA estimates that approximately 590 of these facilities are manufacturers, and the other 670 are power plants.

A final rule is expected in 2013.

This rule is part of a group of rules known as the EPA's Regulatory Train Wreck.


Clean Water Act Sec. 316. Thermal Discharges. (b) Any standard established pursuant to section 301 or section 306 of this Act and applicable to a point source shall require that the location, design, construction, and capacity of cooling water intake structures reflect the best technology available for minimizing adverse environmental impact.

Proposed Standard

Under the proposed rule, any water cooling intake structure that withdraws at least 2 million gallons per day of cooling water will have an upper limit on how many fish can be killed by being pinned against intake screens. Alternately, the facility could reduce their intake velocity to 0.5 feet per second, a rate at which most fish can avoid the cooling water intake.

Facilities that withdraw at least 125 million gallons per day would be required to conduct studies to help their permitting authority determine what controls would be required to reduce the amount of aquatic life drawn into the cooling water systems.  

Finally, new units that add electrical generation capacity at an existing facility would be required to add technology equivalent to close-cycle cooling to reduce entrainment of aquatic life.

Related Documents

Final Deadline Extended to July 2013, July 2012

Notice of Data Availability, June 2012

Proposed Rules, April 2011

Proposed Rule Fact Sheet, March 2011

Press Release Announcing Proposed Rule, March 28, 2011

Settlement Agreement with Riverkeeper , November 2010

Environmental and Economic Benefits Analysis for Proposed Section 316(b) Existing Facilities Rule

Frequently Asked Questions

EPA Website



Secondary Standards for SOx and NOx

August 25, 2011

The EPA is holding a public hearing today on the proposed secondary standards for sulfur oxides and nitrogen oxides. The EPA issued the proposed secondary air standards for sulfur oxides and nitrogen oxides on August 1, 2011.

The Clean Air Act requires the EPA to periodically review the National Ambient Air Quality Standards to ensure that the standards adequately protect public health and welfare. Primary standards address public health concerns while secondary standards impact the public welfare. The secondary standards for nitrogen oxides (NOx) and sulfur oxides (SOx) are jointly under review.

The EPA plans to retain the current NOx and SOx secondary standards to provide protection for the direct effects on vegetation from exposure to gaseous oxides of nitrogen and sulfur in the ambient air. The existing secondary standards are 0.053 parts per million (ppm) averaged over a year for NOx,  and 0.5 ppm averaged over three hours, not to be exceeded more than once per year, for SOx.

The EPA is also proposing to add additional secondary standards identical to the health-based NOx and SOx primary 1 - hour standards set in 2010. The proposed 1-hour secondary standard for NOx would be set at a level of 100 parts per billion (ppb) and the proposed secondary SOx standard would be set at 75 ppb.

Comments are due by September 30, 2011, and a final rule will be issued by March 2012.

CSAPR Resulting in Higher Utility Rates

August 24, 2011

Wisconsin Public Service Corporation (WPSC) and Wisconsin Power & Light Co. (WPL) recently asked the Public Service Commission for additional increases in rates for 2012. The companies indicate the additional rate increases are necessary to cover the cost of complying with the EPA’s new Cross State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR).

In May, WPSC asked for a 3.5% increase for 2012, but because Wisconsin’s emissions budget under CSAPR was smaller than anticipated they are now requesting an additional 3.3% increase. WPSC’s rate case is now a total of 6.8% on average, but 9.14% for large customers. If approved, the request to adjust electric rates will result in a monthly increase of about $4.30 for typical WPS residential retail electric customers.

WPL also updated their fuel filing with the PSC. Their fuel case is now 2% on average and 3% for a large customer. The initial request made by WPL was for a retail rate increase of $13.5 million, but it now totals $20 million because of the increased cost of complying with CSAPR.


Wisconsin DNR Becomes an Enterprise Agency

August 23, 2011

In an effort to increase services and decrease costs, the Department of Natural Resources has been designated Wisconsin’s first ever “enterprise agency.” The DNR and the Department of Administration will negotiate a memorandum of understanding covering the 2011-13 Biennium that governs the proposed changes.

The agreement will give the DNR more authority to manage its vehicles and small construction and repair projects on DNR properties. The Agreement establishes a vehicle procurement plan with a maximum of $3.5 million for each year of the 2011-13 biennium. This would yield a savings in capital expenditures (vehicle purchases and operational costs) of $4.7 million for FY12 and an additional $830,000 in FY13 over four-year average costs under the current system. For the 2011-13 Biennium, facilities management costs would be reduced by more than $1,125,000.

In exchange for these flexibilities, the DNR has committed to:

  • Improve processes to reduce permit times by 5% for major air and water permits while upholding environmental standards;
  • Improve communication and interaction with the regulated community to assure environmental permitting requirements are widely understandable and are issued in a timely way through creation of a new Office of Business Support and Sustainability;
  • Develop Internet-based tools to streamline and more effectively transmit and track permit applications;
  • Increase over-the-counter service at DNR facilities by 40% over 2010;
  • Improve cost-effectiveness by prioritizing work and eliminating duplicative systems for fleet and facilities construction and repair; and,
  • Reduce costs by 2.5% over 2010 for basic operations, and organize itself into a line authority organization to assure DNR is making consistent decisions across the state.

This post was authored by GLLF staff attorney Emily Kelchen.

Carbon Monoxide Standards Remain the Same but Monitoring Changes

August 22, 2011

The EPA has announced it will keep the current carbon monoxide (CO) standards in place, however the monitoring system will be modified to focus on emissions in urban areas and near major roads.

The Clean Air Act mandates the EPA set national ambient air quality standards for CO and five other major pollutants. These standards are to be reviewed every five years and revised if necessary.

The current health standards, unchanged since they were first set in 1971, are 9 parts per million (ppm) measured over 8 hours, and 35 ppm measured over 1 hour. Monitoring data shows that since 1980, levels of CO in the air have fallen by 80 percent, and current standards are sufficient for protecting the public health.

The rule does make some changes to the national monitoring system. There are currently 328 CO monitors in operation across the United States; the new rule reduces the required number of monitors to 52. The CO monitors will be placed with “near-road” nitrogen dioxide (NO2) monitors in urban areas having populations of 1 million or more. States may request that an alternative near-road location be used to house a required near-road CO monitor, as approved by the EPA Regional Administrator on a case-by-case basis.

Wisconsin will have a monitor in the Milwaukee‐Waukesha‐West Allis area, but the greater Chicago, IL and Minneapolis‐St. Paul, MN areas also include portions of Wisconsin, so it is possible that three monitors could be located in the state. The EPA has produced a map of the monitoring areas.

This post was authored by GLLF staff attorney Emily Kelchen.