New EPA Rules on Mercury and Air Toxics for Power Plants
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Finally! After 20 years of wrangling, we may get new rules on toxic pollutants from coal power plants.
When the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 were signed by then President George H. W. Bush, few people thought that the provisions requiring power plants to reduce toxic emissions would remain unfulfilled more than 20 years later. The second George Bush Administration issued mercury rules that were ruled by the courts as unacceptably weak. Now EPA must comply with a court order to issue final rules by December 16, 2012, and as of this writing, remains on track to do so. The rules would require power plants to comply by Jan 1, 2015.
Power plants are the last unregulated source of mercury emissions. But utility industries are still fighting, and in November, WV Senator Manchin proposed legislation to delay the rules for two additional years.
Mercury damages developing brains in children, leading to impaired verbal ability and affecting memory and fine motor and visual spatial skills, according to US-EPA. Most mercury is absorbed from food, especially fish, meat and milk, as it magnifies in the food chain. One in every six babies born in America has unhealthy levels of mercury, and some religious groups are now calling this a “pro-life” issue.
The new rules would also limit other air toxics including acid gases and carcinogens like arsenic. EPA estimates that the rules would alsoreduce particulate pollution and save up to 17,000 lives EACH YEAR (Senator Manchin wants to delay this two additional years). They would produce $5 to $13 in benefits for every dollar in pollution control costs and would also create thousands of construction jobs at power plants.
Some utilities insist that they cannot meet the EPA schedule and would have to shut down power plants, creating rolling blackouts. But 12 states have already required the mercury controls, and utilities in those states were able to meet that timeframe.
If you are curious about who is releasing air toxics in your neighborhood, a searchable map, with links to EPA’s Compliance History for numerous facilities, is available at: http://www.npr.org/news/graphics/2011/10/toxic-air/#4.00/39.00/-84.00
What You Can Do:
Contact Senator Manchin and ask him to drop his bill delaying these sensible mercury standards. Tell him we have already waited too long and he is putting too many lives at risk.
And for you sushi lovers, download the Safe Sushi app for your cell phone, or select the Safe Sushi Poster, available at: http://www.beyondcoal.org/dirtytruth/mercury