The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed new emissions standards for power plants. These standards will limit emissions of mercury, acid gases including hydrochloric acid and other toxic pollutants. Specifically, the EPA is aiming to prevent 91% of the mercury in coal from entering the air. Surprisingly, no national limits exist on the amount of mercury and other toxic air pollutants released from power plants. Amendments to the Clean Air Act in 1990 instructed the EPA to regulate toxic air pollutants. The EPA has promulgated regulations for other industries; however power plants have been the exception.
Reducing mercury emissions is important for the health of our population, especially children. Mercury can cause developmental issues in children’s brains, including negative impacts on memory, attention, language, and motor and visual skills. Additionally, mercury and other power plant pollutants can enter waterways and pollute lakes, streams, and also fish.
These standards will also reduce particle emissions which increase the risk of heart attacks, bronchitis, and asthma attacks. The EPA estimates that for every dollar spent to reduce pollution from power plants, $5 to $13 will be generated in health benefits.
However, some utilities and individuals believe this regulation will kill jobs and hurt the economy. In a recent debate on the standards at the Environmental Law Institute, the Clean Energy Group stated that almost 60% of the coal-fired boilers that submitted stack test data are already meeting the mercury emissions standard and that the industry is better prepared than they admit.
The EPA recently held three public hearings on the standards on May 24th and 26th in Chicago, Philadelphia, and Atlanta. The EPA will accept written comments on the proposed standards until July 5, 2011.
To find instructions for submitting comments, click here!
To find out more information on the standards, click here!