Power plant rules unveiled: Higher bills, cleaner air
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration on Wednesday unveiled rules for coal-fired power plants that mean costly investments passed on to consumers, but also health benefits.
Hundreds of older plants — which together make up the largest remaining source of unchecked toxic air pollution in the United States — will have to cut emissions or shut down.
"By cutting emissions that are linked to developmental disorders and respiratory illnesses like asthma, these standards represent a major victory for clean air and public health," Lisa Jackson, head of the Environmental Protection Agency, said in a statement.
The American Lung Association added its support, calling it a "huge victory for public health" and echoing EPA estimates that the rules will prevent 130,000 child asthma attacks and 11,000 premature deaths each year.
Power plant operators who have trouble meeting a three-year deadline to reduce emissions of mercury and other toxics will be given some flexibility under a deal struck between the White House and the EPA, the Washington Post reported last Friday.
The EPA estimates the rules will cost utilities $9.6 billion by 2016 to install special equipment known as "scrubbers."
About 40 percent of the 1,400 coal-fired units nationwide still lack modern pollution controls, despite the EPA in 1990 getting the authority from Congress to control toxic air pollution from power plant smokestacks. A decade later, in 2000, the agency concluded it was necessary to clamp down on the emissions to protect public health.
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