If anyone had any doubts about the significance of the conventional pollutant regulations that EPA would be rolling out, even in the absence of a full cap-and-trade program for GHG, Wednesday’s release of EPA’s revised power plant MACT proposal should go a long way towards eliminating those doubts. As most readers know, the rule replaces the Bush-era MACT rule that would have created a trading program.

The rule poses a problem for critics of EPA. While arguments can be made about the feasibility of some of the standards and the cost to comply, they cannot credibly allege that it is a back-door effort to regulate coal out of existence. The rule is required by statute and the courts already rejected EPA’s attempt to implement a trading program for mercury.

Apparently, EPA acknowledges that this rule will result in the shut-down of approximately 10 GW of coal-fired capacity, though EPA is taking the position that most of that capacity would shut down for other reasons.

As to substance, the rule is too long – the currently available version weighs in at 946 pages – to describe here. EPA has a reasonably helpful summary, though it doesn’t describe the actual standards. Suffice it to say that, given the absence of a trading program, and the imposition of very low emission standards for mercury and PM (or non-mercury metals), control technology will be necessary to comply with the standards. I don’t think that there’s any such thing as low mercury or low PM coal. The days of uncontrolled coal units are coming to an end.