A coalition of environmental groups last week threatened to sue the EPA if it does not propose regulation of toxic metal discharges from power plants within 60 days.  The threat of a lawsuit comes as EPA announced on September 15 that it will propose a rule to regulate, for the first time, millions of pounds of arsenic, mercury, selenium, lead, and other metals found in the wastewater streams of power plants.

Federal law requires EPA to review its power plant discharge rules annually, but the agency has not revised those rules since 1982.  For the past five years, the agency has studied regulation of toxic metals.  Metals often are removed by scrubbers from power plants’ air emissions and disposed of through the plants’ wastewater.  A December spill from a Tennessee Valley Authority power plant of millions of pounds of coal ash into a river placed concern over toxic waste, including metals, into the national spotlight. 

While EPA initially promised to propose a rule revision by mid-2012, Defenders of Wildlife, Environmental Integrity Project, and Sierra Club threatened legal action to expedite the EPA rulemaking.  EPA spokeswoman Deb Berlin said in a recent email that the agency is committed to proposing a rule for toxic metals by the end of this calendar year.