Regulators are severely underestimating the health harms from the pollution that power plants dump into waterways, an environmental group said Wednesday.
In advance of an expected September rule to crack down on heavy metal pollutants from power plants, the Sierra Club released a report urging the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to look again at the numbers it has put out.
The group argues that with more expensive harms, the EPA’s rule could have a better cost-benefit analysis than previously estimated.
The Sierra Club said a better accounting would put the benefits of the rule at more than $300 million annually, compared with the $14 million to $20 million the EPA previously predicted in 2013.
The group prepared the Wednesday report along with other health and environmental organizations.
“EPA has a historic opportunity to update Clean Water Act protections and to make sure our nation’s drinking water systems and their consumers aren’t bearing the burden and footing the bill to clean up coal plant water pollution,” Jennifer Peters, water programs director at Clean Water Action, said in a statement.
“EPA must put the prevention of contamination and public health protection before the interests of an industry that has had a free pass to poison our nation’s waters for decades,” she said.
The rule from the EPA would further crack down on metals like arsenich, hexavalent chromium, lead and mercury, updating rules that have not been changed since 1982.
Power plants emit over half of the water pollutants that come from industrial sources, the EPA said.
The green groups are using the report to urge the EPA to go with the strongest possible options for the rule.