A new bill to extend compliance deadlines for the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR) and Utility Maximum Achievable Control Technology (MACT) rule was introduced in the U.S. Senate today by Senators Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Dan Coats (R-Ind.).

The “Fair Compliance Act” creates “reasonable timelines and benchmarks” for utilities to comply with the two major Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules. The legislation would extend the compliance deadlines for CSAPR by three years and the deadline for the Utility MACT rule by two years.

As it currently stands, the proposed Utility MACT regulation will require coal-fired plants to achieve a 91% reduction of mercury and other emissions by Jan. 1, 2015. The bill would delay that compliance date—by which time utilities must either have installed emission controls or retired a plant—to Jan. 1, 2017. Almost all coal-fired plants in the U.S.—approximately 1,100 in all—will be required to retrofit their facilities under the Utility MACT rule.

“Hundreds of coal-fired plants in 27 eastern states also will need to retrofit their sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide controls to comply with the Cross-State Air Pollution Rules, which is one of the most expensive rules to ever be imposed on coal-fired plants,” the senators said in a joint statement. The deadline of Phase I for the CSAPR rule is January 1, 2012, and the deadline for Phase II is Jan. 1, 2015. The bill would delay compliance dates for Phase I to Jan. 1, 2015, and for Phase II to Jan, 1, 2017. CSAPR will impose caps on power plant sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions that drift across state borders.

The bill also would require utilities to submit implementation plans to ensure compliance occurs. To safeguard the reliability of the electric grid and avoid brownouts, utilities would need to submit their implementation plans to the North American Electric Reliability Corp. What the bill doesn’t do is “reduce existing authority under the Clean Air Act, nor does it relax the standards under any existing or proposed Clean Air Act regulations,” the senators said.

“The proposed Utility MACT and finalized CSAPR pose a major challenge for utilities to comply by the deadline. This legislation would give utilities a reasonable, responsible timeframe to make the necessary investments that would help them meet the requirements of the proposed regulations,” the senators said.

“I’ve always said government should be your partner, not your adversary—and that’s not a Democratic idea or a Republican idea, it’s a commonsense idea,” Manchin said. “With millions of jobs on the line in this country—and especially in my state of West Virginia—it just makes sense to work to make sure we don’t lose any more jobs in putting these rules in place. I’m proud to bring together Republicans and Democrats on this commonsense solution to a real problem.”

“The current EPA rules and unreasonable deadlines will be devastating for Hoosiers and every ratepayer in America,” Coats said. “After visiting with Indiana utilities and power plants, it is clear that the current EPA timeline will result in more job loss and skyrocketing rates. While I support a complete overturn of these rules, this bill is a bipartisan commonsense solution that gives states and utilities the time needed to plan and prepare.”

The senators cited National Economic Research Associates (NERA) numbers that estimate net employment losses of 1.44 million across the country as a result of the current EPA rules and deadlines. By 2016, NERA estimates that American ratepayers will see an average increase of 11.5%. In some regions of the U.S., increases of up to 23.5% may occur, NERA claims.

Additional cosponsors of the bill include Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Ben Nelson (D-Neb.).

Sources: POWERnews, Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Dan Coats (R-Ind.), EPA