EPA mercury emissions

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed the first-ever national standards for mercury, arsenic and other emissions from power plants. The new power plant mercury and air toxics standards would require many power plants to install emissions control technologies to cut mercury, arsenic, chromium, nickel and acid gases emissions.

The updated standards will attempt to provide a level playing field for power plants across the country. The proposed rule provides up to four years for facilities to meet the standards and, once fully implemented, will prevent 91 percent of mercury in coal from being released into the air. EPA expects the new rule will support 31,000 short-term construction jobs and 9,000 long-term utility jobs.

The 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments mandated that EPA require control of toxic air pollutants including mercury. Since then, EPA has taken action to reduce mercury emissions from many high-emitting sources; however, there has been no national standard for mercury emissions from power plants. A mercury standard has been in the works since 2000, and follows a February 2008 court decision that struck down the previous administration's mercury rule. In October 2009, EPA entered into a consent decree that required a proposal to be signed by March 16, 2011, and a final rule to be completed by November 2011.

The proposed mercury and air toxics standards are based on the latest data and provide industry significant flexibility in implementation through a phased-in approach and use of already existing technologies, EPA said.

The public comment period, which will last 60 days after appearing in the Federal Register, will allow stakeholders including the public, industry and public health communities, to provide important input and feedback. As part of the public comment process, EPA will also hold public hearings on this proposed rule. Additional details on these events will be announced at a future date. For more information, click here.

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