Power Generation, Transmission, and Use

Markets, Regulation, and Oversight

Impacts of Power Generation and Transmission

Looking Ahead


CEIR Report Map


Maryland Power Plants and the Environment (CEIR-18)

3.4.3 The Role of the EPA

In regards to generation, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issues laws and regulations in regards to air, waste, and water, as well as ensure compliance with standards such as coal ash. Some of the acts and regulations enacted by the EPA include the Clean Power Plan (See Section 5.2.3), Interstate Air Pollution, National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP), the Clean Air Act (CAA), Clean Water Act (CWA), Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), and coal ash regulations. In addition to establishing the rules, the EPA issues permits or authorizes states to issue permits related to the environmental regulations.

The CAA is a federal law that defines the responsibilities of the EPA for protecting and improving the nation’s air quality and the stratospheric ozone layer. Under the CAA, EPA has developed a complex set of regulations that govern construction of new pollution sources and modifications or expansions of existing sources. Collectively, these regulations are referred to as New Source Review (NSR). There are three types of NSR permitting requirements: Prevention of Significant Deterioration permits, Nonattainment NSR permits, and minor source permits. Major NSR permits cover the construction, modification, or reconstruction of “major” stationary sources or “major” modifications of existing sources. In areas of the country where National Ambient Air Quality Standards are being met, known as “attainment areas,” the NSR program is known as Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD). In nonattainment areas, the NSR program is referred to as Nonattainment New Source Review (NA-NSR). Construction and modification of “minor” sources are covered by “minor NSR” programs and the regulations covering these activities are established by state and local regulatory agencies. NSR permits outline what construction is authorized, emission restrictions, and how the facility must be operated.

Under Maryland law, power plants in the State are required to obtain a CPCN prior to construction of or modification to an existing facility. The CPCN serves as the air quality permit to construct the proposed project, including PSD and NA-NSR permits. For all PSD or NA-NSR permits issued by the State, the EPA is provided the opportunity to review and comment on the licensing conditions during the CPCN process. Minor NSR permits do not require review by EPA, although representatives from EPA may be consulted on issues that are new or developing.

Additionally, facility-wide Title IV Acid Rain Permits and Title V Operating Permits for power plants in Maryland are issued outside the CPCN process. These permits are processed, renewed, and submitted for public comment by the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE). The draft permits are submitted to the EPA for review. Final permits are issued by MDE. The conditions specified in the permits are federally enforceable and compliance with certain permit conditions requires submittal to the EPA Region III.

The CWA, enacted in 1948, regulates the discharge of pollutant discharge in water throughout the United States and established standards for water quality. Under the CWA, the EPA has enacted pollution control programs and standards for the electric generation industry. For example, section 316(b) of the CWA required the EPA to issue regulations regarding the design and operation of cooling water intake structures. In August 2014, the EPA finalized its National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) requirements, which served to reduce the adverse impact of cooling water intake systems on marine life. Each cooling water intake system must receive a state issued NPDES permit. This rule impacts electric generating units, as well as pulp and paper mills, chemical manufacturing plants, iron and steel manufacturing, and food processing.

The EPA has issued several regulations under the RCRA, a national law which regulates solid waste, regarding fossil fuel combustion (FFC) waste produced from the burning of fossil fuels. The waste can include fly ash, bottom ash, boiler slag and particles removed from flue gas. Most recently, the EPA finalized a rule for the disposal of coal combustion residuals (CCR) from electric utilities. The purpose of the rule is to establish comprehensive requirements for the safe disposal of coal ash, including addressing contamination of ground water, blowing of containments in the air, reporting requirements. The rule also supports responsible recycling of CCR.