Only about 60 percent of existing plants use best-available technology
SUMMIT COUNTY— The fossil fuel industry won’t like it, and will try and scare you by telling you it will increase your electricity bills, but the EPA nonetheless today announced a tough set of rules that will help curb air pollution from coal-burning power plants and save millions of dollars in health care costs.
The announcement was widely hailed by conservation and public health advocates, including the American Lung Association.
“Since toxic air pollution from power plants can make people sick and cut lives short, the new mercury and air toxics standards are a huge victory for public health,” said Albert A. Rizzo, MD, national volunteer chair of the American Lung Association, and pulmonary and critical care physician in Newark, Delaware. “The Lung Association expects all oil and coal-fired power plants to act now to protect all Americans, especially our children, from the health risks imposed by these dangerous air pollutants.”
The Mercury and Air Toxics Standards will reduce toxic emissions from coal- and oil-fired power plants that are found in more than 40 U.S. states and are the largest producers of mercury pollution.
Air pollution emitted by coal-fired power plants contains 84 of the 187 hazardous pollutants identified for control by the Clean Air Act. Many of these pollutants, such as, dioxins, arsenic, and lead, can cause cancer and cardiovascular disease; harm the kidneys, lungs, and nervous system; and even kill. The Mercury and Air Toxics Standards will reduce these pollutants and prevent 130,000 childhood asthma attacks and 11,000 premature deaths each year.
Wildlife advocates also expressed supported for the rule, saying it will protect lakes and streams from acid rain.
“This rule makes good sense and should result in significant reduction of mercury and other acid rain-producing toxins into the air,” said Steve Moyer, TU’s vice president of government affairs. “The EPA, in response to a court order to enforce the Clean Air Act and consider emissions technology as a way to reduce toxins in the country’s air and water, has offered a reasonable road map for industry to follow in order to meet these requirements.”
The EPA estimates that the new safeguards will prevent as many as 11,000 premature deaths and 4,700 heart attacks a year. The standards will also help America’s children grow up healthier – preventing 130,000 cases of childhood asthma symptoms and about 6,300 fewer cases of acute bronchitis among children each year.
“By cutting emissions that are linked to developmental disorders and respiratory illnesses like asthma, these standards represent a major victory for clean air and public health– and especially for the health of our children. With these standards that were two decades in the making, EPA is rounding out a year of incredible progress on clean air in America with another action that will benefit the American people for years to come,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “The Mercury and Air Toxics Standards will protect millions of families and children from harmful and costly air pollution and provide the American people with health benefits that far outweigh the costs of compliance.”
More than 20 years ago, a bipartisan Congress passed the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments and mandated that EPA require control of toxic air pollutants including mercury. To meet this requirement, EPA worked extensively with stakeholders, including industry, to minimize cost and maximize flexibilities in these final standards. There were more than 900,000 public comments that helped inform the final standards being announced today. Part of this feedback encouraged EPA to ensure the standards focused on readily available and widely deployed pollution control technologies, that are not only manufactured by companies in the United States, but also support short-term and long-term jobs. EPA estimates that manufacturing, engineering, installing and maintaining the pollution controls to meet these standards will provide employment for thousands, potentially including 46,000 short-term construction jobs and 8,000 long-term utility jobs.
Power plants are the largest remaining source of several toxic air pollutants, including mercury, arsenic, cyanide, and a range of other dangerous pollutants, and are responsible for half of the mercury and over 75 percent of the acid gas emissions in the United States. Today, more than half of all coal-fired power plants already deploy pollution control technologies that will help them meet these achievable standards. Once final, these standards will level the playing field by ensuring the remaining plants – about 40 percent of all coal fired power plants – take similar steps to decrease dangerous pollutants.
Filed under: air quality, energy, Environment, Summit County news Tagged: | air quality, coal-fired power plants, Environment, EPA, MATS, mercury emissions, pollution, United States Environmental Protection Agency