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House Votes to Approve Easing of Air Quality Standards on Certain Plants That Burn Coal Refuse
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House Votes to Approve Easing of Air Quality Standards on Certain Plants That Burn Coal Refuse

 

On March 8, the U.S. House of Representatives voted along party lines to ease some air quality restrictions for a small niche of the power industry – plants that burn coal refuse. The bill, H.R. 119, is entitled the "Satisfying Energy Needs and Saving the Environment (SENSE) Act." In 2016, a similar bill cleared the House but died in the Senate.

 

While the bill's sponsor, Rep. Keith Rothfus (R-PA), today described it as a "minor tweaking" of U.S. EPA's 2012 Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS). Rep. Mike Doyle (D-PA) predicted the bill would meet the same fate as its predecessor.

 

The bill would relax MATS emissions thresholds for hydrogen chloride and sulfur dioxide for the coal refuse burning power plants, most of which are located in Pennsylvania.

 

A House Energy and Commerce Committee report on the "SENSE Act" said there are 19 such plants. However, George Ellis, executive director of the Anthracite Region Independent Power Producers Association (ARIPPA), an industry trade group, put the total at 18 and said the measure is geared to help just four that burn higher-sulfur bituminous coal instead of anthracite.

 

While most power plants came into compliance with MATS by 2016, Ellis said that state regulators in Pennsylvania and West Virginia have given those four plants an extension until April 2019.

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