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EPA to Review Mercury Rule for Coal Plants After Complaints

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said it will review rules to cut mercury and other pollution from new coal plants after the industry complained that the standards are unattainable.

The reconsideration, which will affect five power stations planned for construction, will be completed by March, the agency said today in a statement. The changes won’t change the requirements the EPA issued in December for existing coal-fired plants.

The EPA’s rule, estimated to cost $9.6 billion when implemented, would cap pollution of mercury, air toxics and particulate matter released from new coal plants. It is the first rule of its kind for such plants, and one of the most expensive in the agency’s history.

Lobbyists for power producers such as Atlanta-based Southern Co. complained that the standards under the so-called MATS rule for new plants were so tight that no operator could comply, and the levels of pollution couldn’t even be tested. The EPA said it was reacting to information that it received after the rule was issued in December.

“Today, EPA has finally admitted what we have known for a very long time: there are significant technical flaws in the way the MATS standards were set,” Scott Segal, a Washington lobbyist at Bracewell & Giuliani LLP who represents companies such as Southern, said in an e-mail.

The agency issued separate standards for existing plants. Most of the 1,100 U.S. plants already comply with the rules for existing facilities, the EPA said when the rule was issued.

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