You have likely heard the news that the Environmental Protection Agency has proposed the first national standard for emissions of mercury and other pollutants from coal-burning power plants.
Mercury emissions damage the nervous systems of fetuses and children. They aggravate asthma. They eventually accumulate in our waterways, rendering fish too toxic for pregnant women and young children to eat.
Here are the economics of the new rules, as estimated by Lisa Jackson, EPA administrator.
Annual cost of compliance: $10 billion.
Health and environmental benefits: $100 billion.
Rise in household electric bills: $3-4/month.
Premature deaths prevented annually: 17,000.
Many coal-fired utilities argue that the rules are too expensive, that older plants will be forced to close and jobs will be lost. But already more than half of all coal-fired plants successfully use available pollution controls to meet these standards. Here is what nine CEOs of coal-powered plants wrote to the Wall Street Journal:
The units retiring are generally small, old and inefficient. These retirements are long overdue.
Contrary to the claims that the EPA’s agenda will have negative economic consequences, our companies’ experience complying with air quality regulations demonstrates that regulations can yield important economic benefits, including job creation, while maintaining reliability.
The time to make greater use of existing modern units and to further modernize our nation’s generating fleet is now. Our companies are committed to ensuring the EPA develops and implements the regulations consistent with the act’s requirements.
Dr. O. Marion Burton, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, says, “If you think it’s expensive to put a scrubber on a smokestack, you should see how much it costs to treat a child over a lifetime with a birth defect.” (link)
The EPA is currently accepting public comments. Please write to Lisa Jackson to express your support for the new national standard. Include your name, hometown and state, and these docket numbers.
Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2011-0044 (NSPS action)
Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2009-0234 (NESHAP action)