Most Duke Plants Ready For EPA Mercury Rule Anyway

Jun 30, 2015

A federal rule to lower mercury, arsenic, lead, and other potentially toxic heavy metals from power plants lies in limbo after a Supreme Court decision Monday. But in the Carolinas, the practical effect will be minimal.

Pipes inside the Marshall Steam Station carry coal, water, and steam. Marshall is one of two coal plants in the state that would not comply with the EPA's mercury rule, which the Supreme Court remanded to a lower court.
Credit Ben Bradford / WFAE

The Supreme Court found that the Environmental Protection Agency didn’t properly weigh how much it would cost power companies to lower the mercury and other heavy metal output from their smokestacks. But Duke Energy’s Chad Eaton says the company will keep preparing for it.

“At this time there’s no immediate effect on Duke Energy’s compliance program,” says Eaton. “All of our power plants will continue their existent compliance activities.”

Companies have spent years preparing for the rule, so much of the work was already done, before the court ruling. That’s especially true in North Carolina. A combination of the state’s 2002 Clean Smokestacks Law, other federal rules, and low natural gas prices mean that Duke’s Carolina coal plants either already largely comply or the company’s retired them.

The company had received extensions to 2016 for its only two coal plants in the Carolinas that would not meet the laws lowered emission standards—the Allen and Marshall coal plants, both in the Charlotte area.

The state Department of Environment and Natural Resources designates all North Carolina waters as impaired by mercury, but most of that—all but 16 percent—comes from out of state.