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Water Effluent Limits for Steam Electric Power Generating

Most Recent Action

The EPA entered a consent decree with environmental groups that provided the EPA would propose a rule by July 23, 2012, and finalize it by January 31, 2014. However, the most recent extension, giving the EPA until April 19, 2013 to propose a rule, is the third granted to the EPA. A final rule would be required by May 22, 2014.


Under the Clean Water Act, EPA establishes national technology-based regulations, or “effluent guidelines,” to reduce pollutant discharge from industries into U.S. waters. The guidelines are industry specific.

The steam electric effluent guidelines apply to steam electric power plants using nuclear or fossil fuels, such as, oil, coal or natural gas. There are approximately 1,200 nuclear and fossil-fuel steam electric power plants in the United States.

Based on findings from an EPA multi-year study of the Steam Electric Power Generating industry, the EPA plans to review current effluent guidelines. During the study, EPA reviewed wastewater discharges from power plants and concluded that the 1982 effluent guidelines were outdated and insufficient. EPA’s decision to review the effluent guidelines was announced on September 15, 2009. During the course of the study, EPA identified certain technologies that could significantly reduce pollutant discharge.

Twice, the EPA requested public comment on a draft questionnaire to be distributed to specific plants within the scope of a potential proposed rule. The second round of public comment ended March 9, 2010. The purpose of the questionnaire was to collect general information about plants and the technologies used in plant processes and the electric generating units.

This rule is part of a group of rules known as the EPA’s Regulatory Train Wreck.


Sections 301; 304(b), (c), (e), and (g); 306(b) and (c); 307(b) and (c); and 501, Clean Water Act (Federal Water Pollution Control Act Amendments of 1972, as amended by Clean Water Act of 1977).


The current effluent guidelines were established in 1982.

Related Documents

40 CFR 423 – Steam Electric Power Generating Point Source Category

Development Document for Final Effluent Guidelines, New Source Performance Standards and Pretreatment Standards for the Steam Electric Power Generating Point Source Category (1982)

Frequently Asked Questions

EPA’s Study of the Steam Electric Power Generating Industry, October 26, 2009