White House Finalizes Crucial Mercury/Air Pollution Standards

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Yes, finally, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has finalized important air pollution standards that will protect the health of countless Americans. The standards will help to reduce mercury, arsenic, acid gas, and cyanide, among other things, from power plants.

“By substantially reducing emissions of toxic pollutants that lead to neurological damage, cancer, respiratory illnesses, and other serious health issues, these standards will benefit millions of people across the country, but especially children, older Americans, and other vulnerable populations,” the White House notes.

“Cumulatively, the total health and economic benefits to society could reach $90 billion each year.”

Of course, organizations and citizens around the country are thrilled with this announcement.

“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, M.D., 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.”

21 Years of Delay..

The sad news is that it has taken over two decades to put these rules in place!

“The 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments required the tighter standards on power plants in an effort to reduce toxic emissions in communities across the country. However, big polluters have fought for and won delays for more than 21 years,” the American Lung Association notes.

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) has more on this:

I commend the Environmental Protection Agency for doing the right thing, under tremendous special interest pressure, in standing up for the public’s interest…..  Finally, after 20 years of dodging regulation, coal- and oil-fired electric power plants, the largest contributors of these toxics, will be held accountable for the pollution they emit, just as many other industries are….

Pollution control technology is already widely available, affordable, and in use at many plants nationwide.  We cannot allow outdated technology to endanger lives and stifle the innovation, investment and productivity that new technologies offer.  It is time for those older power plants that have failed to install this life-saving technology to catch up with the 33 percent that already comply with all of EPA’s emission limits, and with the 60 percent that already comply with EPA’s mercury limit.

coal power plant toxic emissions standards rule

The Facts, Please

How much will these new standards help U.S. citizens? Here are some stats from the White House on what the rule will prevent:

  • Up to 11,000 premature deaths;
  • 2,800 cases of chronic bronchitis;
  • 4,700 heart attacks;
  • 130,000 asthma attacks;
  • 5,700 hospital and emergency room visits; and
  • 540,000 days when people miss work or school.

Another important one: “for every one dollar we spend to reduce pollution under these standards, American families will see up to $9 dollars in health benefits.

Ironically, amidst all the wonderful praise I ran across for the new standards today, I also ran across a statement bashing them from the CEO of the “American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity.” Clean, indeed. Only 21 years of lobbying kept us from cleaning up the mercury, arsenic, cyanide, and acid gas from our coal and power plants and a “clean coal” coalition still thinks we shouldn’t do it. How that guy sleeps at night is a true wonder to me. Luckily, thousands or even millions more will sleep better due to these new rules and their effect on our air, water, and health!

Coal Power Plant via shutterstock

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Zachary Shahan

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA], NIO [NIO], Xpeng [XPEV], Ford [F], ChargePoint [CHPT], Amazon [AMZN], Piedmont Lithium [PLL], Lithium Americas [LAC], Albemarle Corporation [ALB], Nouveau Monde Graphite [NMGRF], Talon Metals [TLOFF], Arclight Clean Transition Corp [ACTC], and Starbucks [SBUX]. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort.

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