Resource Conservation and Recovery Act

May 2, 2024

SCS Engineers Power Sector Compliance
EPA announces compliance changes under the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act impacting Power Sector operations and compliance reporting.


EPA announces final rules intended to reduce pollution from fossil fuel-fired power plants, which the Agency claims will not disrupt reliable electricity delivery. These rules, finalized under separate authorities including the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, aim to reduce climate, air, water, and land pollution from the power sector.

The power sector has been investing long-term to transition to a clean energy economy based on rule changes like those recently announced by the EPA. This technical compliance alert summarizes four key rule changes, including:

  • Mandate that existing coal-fired and new natural gas-fired power plants that plan to run long-term and all new baseload gas-fired plants control 90 percent of their carbon pollution.
  • Tighten the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) for coal-fired power plants by reducing the emissions standard for toxic metals by 67 percent and finalizing a 70 percent reduction in the emissions standard for mercury from existing lignite-fired sources.
  • Reduce pollutants discharged through wastewater from coal-fired power plants by more than 660 million pounds per year, ensuring cleaner water for affected communities, including communities with environmental justice concerns.
  • Require the management of coal ash placed in unregulated areas at the federal level, including previously used disposal areas that may impact groundwater.


Clean Air Act – NSPS
40 CFR Part 60

  • EPA is repealing the Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) Rule, adopted during the Trump Administration to replace the Clean Power Plan (CPP) adopted during the Obama Administration to regulate GHG emissions. The D.C. Circuit Court vacated the ACE in 2021, and the CPP was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2022.
  • EPA has determined that under the New Source Performance Standards (NSPS), the best system of emission reduction (BSER) for the longest-running existing coal-fired and new base load combustion turbines is “a proven add-on control technology—carbon capture and sequestration/storage (CCS).”
  • For existing coal-fired electric generating units (EGUs) that intend to operate on or after January 1, 2039 (i.e., “long-term” units), and for new base load combustion turbine units, EPA will impose a numeric emission rate limit based on the application of CCS with 90% capture by January 1, 2032.
  • In its press release, the EPA states that tax incentives from the Inflation Reduction Act allow companies to help offset the cost of CCS.
  • Edison Electric Institute, an industry trade group, says, “CCS is not yet ready for full-scale, economy-wide deployment, nor is there sufficient time to permit, finance, and build the CCS infrastructure needed for compliance by 2032.” The courts will likely have to decide (again).
  • EPA is finalizing revisions to the NSPS that do not include CCS for GHG emissions from other types of EGUs. States will have two years to submit State Implementation Plans (SIPs) for the new rules. SIPs must reflect meaningful engagement with stakeholders and may incorporate several provisions that the EPA says will encourage flexibility and help assure the electric grid’s reliability.

EPA Fact Sheet:


Clean Air Act – MATS and TRI

 The EPA is updating the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) for coal- and oil-fired power plants to reduce hazardous air pollutant (HAP) emissions, with standards reflecting the latest advancements in pollution control technologies.

The final rule reduces the mercury emissions limit last set in 2020 by 70 percent for lignite-fired units and reduces the filterable particular emissions limit (a surrogate for other toxic metals) by 67 percent for all coal plants—while also requiring the use of continuous emission monitoring systems to provide real-time, accurate data to regulators, facility operators, and the public to ensure that plants are meeting these lower limits and that communities are protected year-round from pollution exposure.

For more information:


Clean Water Act – Effluent Limitations Guidelines (ELG)
40 CFR Part 423

Wastewater discharge standards that apply to coal-fired power plants under the Clean Water Act are intended to reduce the possibility of toxic metals and other pollutants in wastewater entering lakes, streams, and other water bodies.

EPA’s final rule establishes technology-based discharge standards—known as Effluent Limitation Guidelines and Standards (ELGs)—that apply to four types of wastewater:

  • Flue gas desulfurization wastewater,
  • Bottom ash transport water,
  • CCR leachate,
  • “Legacy wastewater” stored in surface impoundments (for example, coal ash ponds).

Recognizing that some coal-fired power plants are in the process of closing or switching to less polluting fuels such as natural gas or renewable natural gas, the regulation includes flexibilities to allow these plants to continue to meet the 2015 and 2020 regulation requirements instead of the requirements contained in this final regulation. The EPA is creating a new subcategory for energy-generating units (EGUs) that permanently cease coal combustion by 2034.

EPA Fact Sheet:


RCRA – Coal Ash/CCR Disposal and Impoundments
40 CFR Part 257

Under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, EPA is finalizing a rule for controlling and cleaning up contamination from the disposal of coal combustion residuals (CCR), or coal ash. The Agency is finalizing regulations for managing coal ash at inactive surface impoundments at inactive power plants and historical coal ash disposal areas. Inactive coal ash surface impoundments at inactive facilities are called “legacy CCR surface impoundments.”

This final rule extends a subset of EPA’s existing CCR requirements to these historic disposal units to remediate contamination and prevent further impacts. These requirements apply to all active and inactive facilities with legacy CCR surface impoundments. EPA is strengthening established groundwater monitoring, corrective action, closure, and post-closure care requirements for CCR management units (regardless of how or when that CCR was placed) at regulated facilities.

This rule becomes effective six months after publication of the final rule in the Federal Register. The compliance deadlines in the final rule provide additional time beyond the effective date for facilities to comply with certain technical criteria based on the amount of time EPA projects that facilities need to complete them, such as installing a groundwater monitoring system or developing a groundwater sampling plan and analysis program.

EPA Fact Sheet:

Pre-publication Version of the Hazardous and Solid Waste Management System: Disposal of Coal Combustion Residuals from Electric Utilities; Legacy CCR Surface Impoundments Rule:


Power Sector Compliance, Operations, and Reporting Resources:



Posted by Diane Samuels at 6:00 am