EPA Unveils First Nationwide Rules to Limit Toxic Air Pollution from Power Plants


Photo: jazonz, Flickr, CC BY

There's a lot of noise on the environmental front right now -- besides the nuclear crisis in Japan, there's an attack on climate science led by US politicians and widespread conflict in the Middle East driving up the price of oil. So it's not surprising that this news got relegated to the background: The EPA has revealed its landmark proposal for curbing toxic air pollution emitted by coal and oil plants -- not greenhouse gases, but stuff like mercury that poses a very immediate danger to human health. This is big news for anyone who appreciates their lungs. Here's the announcement, via the EPA:

today the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed the first-ever national standards for mercury, arsenic and other toxic air pollution from power plants. The new power plant mercury and air toxics standards ... would require many power plants to install widely available, proven pollution control technologies to cut harmful emissions of mercury, arsenic, chromium, nickel and acid gases, while preventing as many as 17,000 premature deaths and 11,000 heart attacks a year. The new proposed standards would also provide particular health benefits for children, preventing 120,000 cases of childhood asthma symptoms and about 11,000 fewer cases of acute bronchitis among children each year. The proposed standards would also avert more than 12,000 emergency room visits and hospital admissions and 850,000 fewer days of work missed due to illness.
Studies have indicated that these new pollution controls would result in the creation of 31,000 short-term construction jobs and nearly ten thousand long term utility jobs. Plus, it's going to make the air so much cleaner -- win-win, right?

These standards are going to be harder for the GOP to fight, seeing as how they're specifically designed to reduce toxic pollution -- an aim that's about as noncontroversial as can be -- but expect political opposition motivated by corporate interests regardless. There's no way around it, though -- every year, power plants are currently exposing Americans to 386,000 tons of 84 dangerous pollutants that are as of now unregulated. These new pollution controls would go a good distance in correcting that.

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Tags: Air Pollution | EPA | United States