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EPA Sets New Power Plant Emission Standards

Agnus Dei Farrant |
December 21, 2011 | 9:43 p.m. PST

Executive Producer

St. Johns River Power Park, Jacksonville, Fla. (photo courtesy of Creative Commons).
St. Johns River Power Park, Jacksonville, Fla. (photo courtesy of Creative Commons).
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced Wednesday the new Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, the first national standards for coal-fired power plant emissions of mercury and toxic air pollution. The standards will slash emissions of pollutants such as arsenic, acid gas, nickel, selenium and cyanide.

The EPA will by relying on widely available, proven pollution controls already in use at more than half of the nation's coal-fired power plants, according to a press release.

The standards will likely help reshape the industry as companies turn off old plants and decide whether to clean up existing ones or switch to cleaner-burning fuels such as natural gas, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The agency estimates the safeguards will prevent up to 11,000 premature deaths and 4,700 heart attacks per year. They may also prevent 130,000 cases of childhood asthma symptoms and more than 6,000 fewer cases of acute bronchitis among children per year.

The EPA press release stated that "for every dollar spent to reduce pollution from power plants, the American public will see up to $9 in health benefits. The total health and economic benefits of this standard are estimated to be as much as $90 billion annually."

EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson said in the statement that the health benefits far outweigh costs of compliance.

"By cutting emissions that are linked to developmental disorders and respiratory illnesses like asthma," Jackson said, "these standards represent a major victory for clean air and public health - and especially for the health of our children."



Reach executive producer Agnus Dei Farrant here.

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