EPA Issues Rule to Limit Mercury, Toxic Emissions from Power Plants

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The Environmental Protect Agency unveiled first-of-its-kind standards today, sharply limiting mercury emissions and other toxic pollutants from the nation's 1,400 coal- and oil-burning power plants.

In its statement today, the EPA said the new standards will prevent up to six premature deaths in Idaho, while creating up to $54 million in health benefits in 2016.

The rule, formally known as the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, marks the first time the federal government will enforce limits on mercury, arsenic, acid gases and other poisonous and carcinogenic chemicals emitted by the burning of fossil fuels.

The closest facility to be impacted by the rule would be the coal-fired power plant in Boardman, Ore. Portland General Electric has already filed to close the plant by 2020. The plant accounts for 15 percent of the power provided by PGE, Oregon's largest electric utility.

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A number of power plant operators are likely to challenge the rules in court, claiming that they would be expensive and could eliminate hundreds of thousands of jobs. But not everyone in the power industry is pushing back. Ralph Izzo, CEO of Public Service Enterprise Group, the parent of one of the nation's largest electric utilities, said the EPA action was "long overdue," claiming that the new standards could give enough flexibility to allow power generators to come into compliance "without any threat to the reliability of electric supply."

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