Discussion Paper

Mercury and Air Toxics Standards Analysis Deconstructed: Changing Assumptions, Changing Results

Apr 8, 2013 | Blair Beasley, Matthew Woerman, Anthony Paul, Dallas Burtraw, Karen L. Palmer


Several recent studies have used simulation models to quantify the potential effects of recent environmental regulations on power plants, including the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS), one of the US Environmental Protection Agency’s most expensive regulations. These studies have produced inconsistent results about the effects on the industry, making general conclusions difficult. We attempt to reconcile these differences by representing the variety of assumptions in these studies within a common modeling platform. We find that the assumptions, and their differences from the way MATS will be implemented, make a substantial impact on projected retirement of coal-fired capacity and generation, investments that are required, and emissions reductions. Almost uniformly, the actual regulation, when examined in its final form and in isolation, provides more flexibility than is represented in most models. We find this leads to a smaller impact on the composition of the electricity generating fleet than most studies have predicted.