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EPA Completes Analysis of Mercury Rule

Power plants are responsible for half of all U.S. mercury emissions. (Tony Webster/flickr.com)
Power plants are responsible for half of all U.S. mercury emissions. (Tony Webster/flickr.com)
April 19, 2016

NEW YORK - The federal Environmental Protection Agency has completed an analysis showing that reducing emissions of mercury and other toxic substances would have enormous health benefits.

The power industry and several states had challenged the rules in federal court.

Last June, without blocking the rules from going forward, the Supreme Court said the EPA had failed to properly consider how much their implementation would cost power plants.

According to Graham McCahan, an attorney with the Environmental Defense Fund, analysis released Friday fulfills that requirement.

"It reaffirms their prior determination which was, indeed, this is a very cost-effective way to very significantly reduce a whole host of very dangerous air pollutants," says McCahan.

The EPA estimated that, nationwide, the new standards would have about $90 billion a year in health benefits, preventing up to 11,000 premature deaths, 4,700 heart attacks and 130,000 asthma attacks annually.

New York has few coal-fired power plants left in operation and Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said those that remain will be retired by the year 2020. But McCahan points out pollution doesn't obey state boundaries.

"And New York is downwind of many states in the Midwest and elsewhere that have a lot of coal-fired power plants," he says. "That are emitting significant amounts of this smokestack pollution."

He says power plants are responsible for half of all mercury emissions in the United States.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - NY