Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized the first-ever federal standards to reduce mercury, arsenic, chromium and other toxic air pollutants from power plants. EPA estimates that these standards will prevent thousands of hospitalizations and emergency room visits and 17,000 premature deaths each year. Implementing the standards, which were called for in the 1990 Clean Air Act amendments and are now long overdue, creates a level playing field for the energy industry after more than 20 years of uncertainty and delays
“These standards mean power plants will invest in modern pollution controls, and that investment will create jobs, cleaner air and better public health,” said Howard Learner, Executive Director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “Illinois adopted mercury pollution reduction standards in 2006 and modern control equipment has been installed at almost all coal plants in the state. The technology works, the lights have stayed on, mercury pollution has been reduced and children’s health is better protected. It’s time for the holdout utilities to stop crying wolf, stop stalling and clean up their pollution to protect children’s health and our rivers and lakes.”
“Illinois and other states have led the way and shown that these federal standards are reasonable and attainable,” said Learner. “With federal standards in place, all Americans will gain the benefits of better health and cleaner and safer water.”
Mercury is a potent neurotoxin that can harm fetal brain development, reducing children’s IQ and their ability to learn. According to EPA estimates, about 300,000 babies are born in the U.S. every year at risk of neurological damage because of mercury.
The Mercury and Air Toxics Standards set a 3-5 year timeline for power plant owners to install widely available modern technology to reduce mercury pollution by 91% and drastically reduce arsenic, chromium, acid gases and other toxic air pollutants which are known or suspected of causing cancer and other serious health effects. The new standards will create thousands of jobs around the country as power plant owners hire people to build, install and operate modern pollution control equipment needed to reduce mercury and other toxics from their plants.