More Good News: Mercury Emission Regulations Go Into Effect

The US EPA published long-overdue mercury standards today, which will, for the first time, set historic national limits on mercury, arsenic, lead, acid gases and other toxic air pollution from power plants.

Mercury is a dangerous neurotoxin that harms children’s developing brains and nervous systems, and power plants are the
largest industrial source of mercury in the U.S.

"These long-overdue mercury standards are likely to be among the Obama administration’s most significant environmental accomplishments – part of the historic progress America is making toward curbing harmful pollutions that contaminate our air, water, lands and wildlife, and contribute to asthma attacks, heart attacks and even premature deaths," says Frances Beinecke, president of Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). 

Limits for these pollutants were required way back in 1990 under Clean Air Act amendments, but special interests have  delayed them for more than 20 years.

This Mercury and Air Toxics Standards rule will:

  • prevent 11,000 premature deaths, 5000 heart attacks, 130,000 asthma attacks, 5700 hospital visits and 540,000 missed work days every year
  • prevent 90% of the toxic mercury burned by coal-fired power plants from being emitted into our air
  • level the playing field for coal and oil-fired power plants that
    have already updated their facilities with made-in-America, cost-effective technology
  • create tens of thousands of jobs for Americans who will build, install, and operate the pollution controls 

Starting today, companies have three years to comply with the
rule, but any company that needs more time will get exceptions.

Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK) promises to file a resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to  abolish these and all other health standards that reduce mercury and other toxic air pollution from power plants.

Today’s Federal Register publication also triggers the start of a 60-day period for potential litigation over these standards. Expect an  avalanche of lawsuits from the biggest and dirtiest utility companies, many of which operate coal plants that over 50 years old. The National Mining Association has already announced litigation.

Since EPA first announced that standards in December 2011, plans have already been made for some of the nation’s dirtiest coal plants to close.

All the rule requires is that the nation’s dirtiest power plants install pollution prevention technology.

Last year, the GOP dominated House passed the TRAIN Act, which blocks the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, which curbs power plant smog and soot pollution that crosses state lines, and the Mercury and Air Toxics standards, which limit mercury and other toxic air pollution from power plants.  

The next major set of regulations, which have also been delayed, are EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions standards for the largest power plants.

Expect a firestorm!

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