EPA To Unveil Stricter Rules For Power Plants
More than 20 years ago, Congress ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate toxic air pollution. It's done that for most industries, but not the biggest polluters — coal and oil-burning power plants.
The EPA now plans to change that later this week, by setting new rules to limit mercury and other harmful pollution from power plants.
When Congress first told the EPA to regulate toxic air pollution in 1990, pediatrician Lynn Goldman was investigating the impact of mercury from mining operations on Native American families living near a contaminated lake.
When President George W. Bush took office, the power industry persuaded his EPA to adopt soft limits on mercury, but federal courts said that regulation was too weak, so it never went into effect.
Now, the court has set a deadline of Friday for the EPA to issue a new rule. The language the EPA wants would require quick action, stating that within three years, power plants that burn coal would have to cut more than 90 percent of the mercury from their exhaust.
They'd also have to slash arsenic, acid gases and other pollutants that cause premature deaths, asthma attacks and cancer. But even now, some power companies have been furiously fighting the EPA's rule — especially its deadlines.