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New rules won’t affect mills' power supply: EPA

Keywords: Tags  steel, Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, Steel Manufacturers Association, Bob Perciasepe, Chris Prentice

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has taken "unprecedented" steps to ensure that new regulations don’t threaten steel producers’ electrical security, the agency’s deputy administrator told members of the Steel Manufacturers Association (SMA).

Power plants have up to five years to comply with new emissions standards, EPA deputy administrator Bob Perciasepe said at the SMA’s annual convention in Washington. "We’re pretty sure the five-year period is going to cover virtually everybody."

Some members of the steel industry are concerned that the mercury and air toxics standards, which will require significant cuts in emissions, could threaten the supply of electricity needed to run electric-arc furnaces (EF). Many older, coal-fired power plants are expected to shut down as a result of the standards.

Perciasepe did not comment on possible changes in utility prices that could result from the new regulations and related closures, but he emphasized that a secure power supply is one of the agency’s priorities.

The standards, introduced in December, give power plants three years to reduce air emissions. The agency also has provided for a fourth-year grace period, which individual states can grant to power plants that need extra time to meet the new standards. And in what Perciasepe described as an "unprecedented" move, the EPA approved a fifth year for power plants that prove they need more time to comply.

Perciasepe also emphasized that the EPA has no authority to shut down a plant. "The (U.S.) Secretary of Energy has the authority to order a plant to keep operating if it’s needed for power purposes," he said.

In the meantime, Perciasepe recommended that those concerned should reach out to their local planning organizations in advance of the 2015 deadline. "I would recommend that in the early part of the five years . . . that you make sure you get to your regional planning organization to know what they’re doing," he said.

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