EPA Announces Landmark Mercury Standards for Power Plants
Thursday, December 22, 2011
ST. PAUL, Minn. - It's being called an historic achievement. Twenty-two years after getting the authority from Congress, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has finally announced its first-ever nationwide standards for mercury and toxic air pollution from power plants.
J Drake Hamilton, science policy director for Minnesota-based Fresh Energy, says the standards will be phased in over the next four years and are expected to reduce pollution from power plants by 91 percent.
"This is really good news for human health, because it turns out that the pollutants that we're talking about cause nerve damage in kids, brain damage in kids, premature deaths, asthma attacks, heart attacks and cancer."
The reduction in pollution from the standards is expected to save some 11,000 lives a year, adds Hamilton.
Those opposed to the rule have, among other concerns, pointed to the cost of the overhaul. Hamilton agrees the transformation will not be cheap, but says it will more than pay for itself in the long run, as fewer people suffer from diseases caused or exacerbated by the pollutants.
"The cost of doing that will be about $9.6 billion, but the health benefits will be at least triple that amount. So, you invest dollars in cleaning up the power supply, you keep the lights on, and you greatly improve the health of human beings."
In Hamilton's opinion, the reductions are vital to protect the great outdoor traditions in the "Land of 10,000 Lakes," where last year alone, she says, mercury pollution reached nearly 900 pounds.
"To give you a sense of the context, less than a teaspoon of mercury is enough to contaminate the fish in a 20-acre lake. So, these air toxins are very potent; they're very powerful. They can cause a lot of damage to the food chain and the fish, and to the people who eat those fish."
Minnesota has been ahead of the curve on this issue with legislation that was passed in 2006 ordering a reduction of mercury at the six largest power plants in the state. More than a dozen others in Minnesota will now be covered by this new national rule.
More details about the new Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) are online at www.epa.gov/mats.
get more stories like this via email
Voting advocates say more and more Michiganders are choosing to cast absentee ballots to save time and avoid long lines on Election Day. In 2020…
With the election a little over a month away, some say caregiving and long-term care are issues too big for candidates in Oregon to ignore. There …
Health and Wellness
COVID upended many routines, including Texas parents getting kids in for regularly scheduled childhood vaccines. Data from the Texas Department of …
Pennsylvania has a strong commitment to urban agriculture and community gardening, and some groups in the state are working to get more colorful …
Georgia Power is reducing its reliance on coal by phasing out several coal-fired units. However, clean-energy advocates say the company should …
A new report on Black students in the community college system found fewer are signing up to attend two-year schools, and the college enrollment …
Greenhouse gas emissions have been potentially reduced by 50,000 tons in the state, with the help of Wisconsin farmers supported by a statewide …
Social Security benefits again could see their highest increase in several decades, but those advocating for beneficiaries say there is still plenty …