The Environmental Protection Agency is tightening rules that limit emissions of mercury and other harmful pollutants from coal-fired power plants, updating standards imposed more than a decade ago.
The rules proposed Wednesday would reduce emissions of mercury and other toxic pollutants that can harm the brain development of young children and contribute to heart attacks and other health problems in adults.
The move follows the Environmental Protection Agency’s legal finding in February that regulation of toxic emissions under the Clean Air Act is “appropriate and necessary” to protect public health. The February 17 finding reversed a move by former President Donald Trump’s administration to weaken the legal basis for limiting mercury emissions.
The proposed regulation would support and strengthen the Environmental Protection Agency mercury and air toxicity standards, That has achieved a 90% reduction in mercury emissions from power plants since it was approved in 2012 under former President Barack Obama, said EPA Administrator Michael Reagan.
“By taking advantage of proven, affordable emissions reduction measures and encouraging new and advanced control technologies, we can reduce dangerous pollution from coal-fired power plants – protecting our planet and improving the public health of all,” Reagan said in a statement.
The proposed rule is expected to become final next year, Reagan said, “to ensure historic protections for communities across the country, especially for our vulnerable children and residents.”
The new rule aims to eliminate up to 70% of emissions of mercury and other toxic pollutants such as lead, nickel and arsenic, while reducing fine dust from coal plant emissions.
The proposal is in line with a larger push by the Environmental Protection Agency under President Joe Biden to restore dozens of federal environmental protections that the Trump administration rolled back, including reinstating stringent environmental reviews of large infrastructure projects, protecting thousands of waterways and preserving endangered species.
Biden has pledged to make the US electricity sector carbon neutral by 2035, and tougher pollution standards have prompted electric plants to replace coal and oil with natural gas, wind and solar power.
Coal-fired power plants are the single largest human-made source of mercury pollutants, which enter the food chain through fish and other items that people consume. Mercury can affect the nervous system and kidneys. The World Health Organization says fetuses are particularly vulnerable to birth defects through exposure in the mother’s womb.
Environmental and public health groups have applauded the EPA’s proposal, saying it protects Americans, especially children, from some of the most dangerous forms of air pollution.
“There is no safe level of mercury exposure, and while we have made great progress in developing clean energy, coal-fired power plants remain one of the largest sources of mercury pollution,” said Holly Bender, senior director of Sierra Energy Campaigns. club.
“It’s troubling to think that toxic pollutants from coal plants could build up in places like Lake Michigan, where many Americans camp and swim during the summer,” Bender said, and where people fish to feed their families. Our children deserve to live and play in a healthy and safe environment. ”
The Edison Electric Institute, which represents investor-owned electric companies in the United States, said it was reviewing the details of the EPA’s proposal, but added that its members have “fully and successfully implemented mercury standards and air fracturing standards” for 11 years, reducing mercury and emissions. Related” from American Power Plants.
“We look forward to continuing to work with the EPA to ensure the final standard is aligned with the ongoing clean energy transition in our industry,” said Emily Fisher, group executive vice president of clean energy.
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, D-Va., took a more combative approach, saying that President Joe Biden’s administration “continues to wage war on coal and reliable, affordable energy by issuing unnecessary regulations aimed at reducing electricity production from our country’s primary energy resources.”
The Biden administration has “once again put politics above sound politics,” said Capito, the ranking Republican on the Senate Environment Committee and a fierce champion of her home state’s coal. With one orchestrated job kill after another, the Environmental Protection Agency continues to threaten the livelihoods of those who They live in West Virginia and other energy-producing communities across the country.”
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