The Environmental Protection Agency this week told the nation’s oldest and dirtiest power plants to clean up their acts or face being shut down.
When fully implemented in 2016, EPA’s new standards will reduce mercury emissions from burning coal by 90 percent, acid gases by 88 percent and sulfur dioxide by 41 percent. Power plant operators will have to choose between installing pollution control equipment, switching to cleaner-burning natural gas, or shutting down their operations.
According to EPA, about half of the nation’s 1,200 coal- and oil-fired units nationwide still lack modern pollution controls.
In a statement Wednesday, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said she was proud to close out 2011 with the biggest clean air action yet. She touted it as one of three EPA victories this year, along with new fuel economy standards and another emissions rule affecting pollution downward from power plants.
President Obama praised the new regulations, calling the decades of delays caused by special interest groups wrong, and declaring, quote, “Today, my administration is saying, ‘Enough.”
Meanwhile, some power producers tried to convince the Obama administration to weaken the rule and delay it.
The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity characterized EPA as being out of touch with the hard reality facing American families and businesses, saying, “Coal helps make electricity affordable for families and businesses. Unfortunately, this new rule is likely to be the most expensive rule ever imposed on coal-fueled power plants…People’s jobs, their family budgets and their access to affordable electricity are at stake.”
The EPA estimates the rule will cost nearly $10 billion annually, making it one of the most expensive the agency has ever issued.