Coal-fired power plants are blaming clean water protections for forcing them to close, but a loophole in the rule could just be helping them pollute more, E&E News reports. A Sierra Club report last month showed at least 26 power plants said they would shut down or stop burning coal because, their operators said, of a wastewater rule enacted by the previous administration meant to weaken Obama-era protections. By announcing their closure, coal plant operators can now take advantage of a provision of the rule that allows them to keep discharging polluted wastewater, and exempts them from having to install wastewater cleanup equipment, for seven more years.

In other cases, the regulations are little more than a scapegoat, advocates say, for an industry facing steep underlying economic challenges that has fought pollution reduction measures for decades. “For some of them, the wastewater rule was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” Casey Roberts, a senior Sierra Club attorney, told E&E News. “A lot of them are facing uphill economics, a lot of them have other environmental compliance issues and expenses coming up … and just competition from other resources.” (E&E News)