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December 26, 2011
EPA Issues Rule on Mercury Emissions from Power Plants
    by Robert Kropp

The rule requiring power plants to install pollution control equipment to reduce emissions will improve the nation's health and create almost 1.5 million jobs in the next five years.

Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) presented a holiday gift to the nation's health as well as to the portfolios of sustainable investors by announcing its final Mercury and Air Toxics Rule for Power Plants.

The new rule—the first in the nation's history to regulate emissions of mercury, a neurotoxin especially harmful to children and pregnant women—will require power plants that have not done so already to install pollution control equipment within the next three years. The rule is expected to result in a 90% reduction of mercury emissions nationwide.

According to EPA, the rule will prevent 11,000 premature deaths and 4,700 heart attacks a year. It will also prevent 130,000 cases of childhood asthma symptoms a year, as well as more than 6,000 cases of acute bronchitis among children.

As a
report by the Environment America Research & Policy Center points out, "Two-thirds of all airborne mercury pollution in the United States came from the smokestacks of coal-fired power plants." And after EPA published its draft rules in March, the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, an industry trade group, embarked on a $35 million campaign to prevent the Agency from implementing them.

Nevertheless, the final rules are effectively unchanged from those proposed in the draft.

"With these standards that were two decades in the making, EPA is rounding out a year of incredible progress on clean air in America with another action that will benefit the American people for years to come," said EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson.

In July, EPA issued its final
Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, which requires states to limit power plant emissions that contribute to air pollution in other states. Together, the two rules will prevent up to 46,000 premature deaths, 540,000 asthma attacks among children, and 24,500 emergency room visits and hospital admissions.

In a statement, Ceres president Mindy Lubber said, "The new rule will unleash investment in our nation's infrastructure and create jobs up and down the supply chain."

"Clean air is a boon to us all and putting this new air pollution rules into effect at a time when new jobs and economic growth are desperately needed is the right thing to do," she continued.

Ceres estimates that as a result of the rules, the power sector will invest over $200 billion in capital improvements over the next five years, creating almost 1.5 million jobs.


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