EPA Addresses Mercury Concerns with Limits on Emissions

Mar 17, 2011, 10:57

EPA regulators say they have proposed the first-ever national standards for mercury, arsenic and other toxic air pollution from power plants. The Environmental Protection Agency said the proposed standards represent one of strongest health protections from air pollution since passage of the Clean Air Act.

The standards would require many power plants to install pollution control technologies to cut harmful emissions of mercury, arsenic, chromium, nickel and acid gases, and would prevent as many as 17,000 premature deaths and 11,000 heart attacks a year, an EPA release said Wednesday.

"Today's announcement is 20 years in the making, and is a significant milestone in the Clean Air Act's already unprecedented record of ensuring our children are protected from the damaging effects of toxic air pollution," EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said.

Health advocates said they welcomed the proposal.

"The American Lung Association applauds the release of this sensible public health measure," association Chief Executive Officer Charles D. Connor said.

"When it becomes final, the cleanup rule that the EPA is putting forward today will save lives, protect the health of millions of Americans and finally bring about an action that is 20 years overdue. This must happen."

Currently, more than half of all coal-fired power plants already utilize widely available pollution control technologies that allow them to meet the standards, the EPA said.

Once final, the standards will ensure the remaining 44 percent take similar steps to decrease dangerous pollutants, the agency said.

The EPA said a final rule will be in place by November after public hearings are held, and will provide a four-year period for facilities to meet the standards.

Wednesday's announcement was the outgrowth of an October 2009 consent decree.

Source: UPI