EPA (finally) releases toxics limits on power plants

(credit: www.eoearth.org)

 What a great holiday gift for America's kids. And other people who breathe and eat.

On Wednesday, with sign-off from President Obama, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson announced the first federal regulations limiting the amount of mercury, arsenic, acid gases, dioxins and other toxics that America's coal- and oil-fired power plants can release into our air. Of course, this is a big deal only if you think neurological damage, cancer, heart disease, birth defects, asthma attacks and premature deaths are big deals. At EDF, we do, and in a joint statement with a half-dozen other national environmental groups, we pointed out the new protections will prevent 4,700 heart attacks and 130,000 asthma attacks among children — and save 11,000 lives. Every single year.

It wasn't easy. Environmentalists, evangelicals, moms and health professionals have been pushing to address this toxic threat for 21 years, and the electric power industry has pushed just as hard the other way — and with a lot more money behind them. The new regulations are a major step forward for the public's health and the health of the environment. Not surprisingly, some power companies are squealing like stuck pigs. But to their credit, fully three-quarters of the nation's largest coal-fired generators support the new rules and say they should be able to comply with them. In fact, the CEO and President of PSEG told the Wall Street Journal that the new regulations "provide a clear path for responsible coal generation."

And to those who insist on pitting the environment against the economy, we offer this: Fitting older power plants with new pollution control technology will produce an estimated 46,000 new short-term construction jobs and 8,000 new permanent jobs at power plants.

It was a long time coming, but Wednesday was a very good day.

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  • About the author

    Vice President, Clean Energy
    Jim Marston is the founding director of the Texas office of Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), located in Austin, where he has served since its beginning in 1988. He is also a leader of the Pecan Street, Inc., a partnership that includes Austin Energy, the University of Texas, the Chamber of Commerce, and several large high/clean tech companies aimed at making fundamental changes in the nation's electricity grid.

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    Confluence of SJR, Old, and Middle rivers

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