Saturday, December 17, 2011

Administration decides on first mercury rules for coal-fired plants; to be announced next week

"The Obama administration finished crafting tough new rules Friday curbing mercury and other poisons emitted by coal-fired utilities, according to several people briefed on the decision, culminating more than two decades of work to clean up the nation’s dirtiest power plants," Juliet Eilperin and Steven Mufson report for The Washington Post.

"As part of last-minute negotiations between the White House and the Environmental Protection Agency, the regulations give some flexibility to power plant operators who argued they could not meet the three-year deadline for compliance outlined by the EPA. Several individuals familiar with the details declined to be identified because the agency will not announce the rules until next week."

The new limits on mercury, acid gas and other pollutants "represent one of the most significant public health and environmental measures in years," the Post reports. "The rules will prevent 91 percent of the mercury in coal from entering the air and much of the soot as well: According to EPA estimates, they will prevent 11,000 heart attacks and 120,000 asthma attacks annually by 2016. Frank O’Donnell, who heads the advocacy group Clean Air Watch, told the Post, “I think this will prove to be the signature environmental accomplishment of the Obama administration.”

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