Thursday, December 22, 2011

EPA issues rules on mercury, other toxics from coal plants; expected to be political issue in 2012

As expected, the Obama administration issued the first limits on mercury and other toxic emissions from coal-fired power plants yesterday, but the 20-year battle over the issue will continue, writes Neela Banerjee of the Los Angeles Times.

The rules and the administration's plan to delay a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to the Gulf until 2013 "are political gambles for President Obama, since Republican challengers could push the jobs argument in crucial coal-reliant states like Ohio, Indiana and Pennsylvania," Banerjee writes. "Obama put himself squarely behind the mercury decision, releasing a short video in which he underscored the fact that President George H.W. Bush had signed the 'bold and necessary' law authorizing the EPA to reduce toxic substances in the air in 1990."

The rules would allow power plants to emit 1.2 pounds of mercury per million BTUs of energy produced. The industry wanted a 1.4-pound limit, but the Environmental Protection Agency "arrived at its figure based on a formula set out under the Clean Air Act, and analysts said the agency could not deviate from it," Banerjee reports. "The rule would remove 90 percent of the mercury spewing into the air, the EPA said." (Read more)

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