smoke stacks

Coal burning power plants have three years to comply with the EPA’s first ever national standards for mercury emissions. According to the EPA, the new regulations released on Wednesday will prevent 91 percent of mercury in coal from being released into the air. But utilities are unhappy with the new standards, citing the high cost — $11 billion by 2016 — and a threat to job creation in the U.S.

Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club
Scott Segal, executive director of Electric Reliability Coordinating Council (ERCC)
Ryan Tracy, energy and environmental policy reporter for the Wall Street Journal

  • PrintDeutschmarks

    I visited a college town in Pennsylvania some time ago that has a major coal burning power plant and asked locals what they knew about mercury pollution in their down (Indiana, PA) and they appears to know nothing. Meanwhile the local student newspaper had a story by a young hippy who mentioned both harassment by police and the fact that the cops’ badges feature a depiction of power plant stacks.

    • PrintDeutschmarks

      Redo without typos (where is the edit function?):

      I visited the college town of Indiana, Pennsylvania some years ago that is downwind from actually two large coal burning power plants. I asked locals what they knew about
      mercury pollution in their town and they appeared to know
      nothing and to not care. During my visit I picked up the local university’s student newspaper, which ran a story by a young, self-proclaimed
      hippy who alleged harassment by police and mentioned the fact that the
      cops’ badges feature a depiction of power plant stacks.

  • Aaron

    $11 billion over 4 years, divided by 315 million Americans is 73 cents a month or 2 cents a day. I realize the math doesn’t break down this simply when it comes to who pays for this, but this is a no brainier.   

  • Westerner

    what happens if Obama loses in 2012 and the new power plant rule is under legal attack by industry?  If a President Gingrich or Romney refuse to defend the rule are there others who can? 

    • Brian Carr21

      If the rule can be imposed by a president without congressional approval, it can be overturned by a president.

  • blinkytoo

    This response from industry is so typical of American corporations. In the 60’s car companies fought seat belts and fuel economy. Looking back it was absurd. Big power should just do the right thing and move on to the 21st century.

  • Robyn

    If regulations continue to be categorized as “job killers” not public health and safety benefits, we can anticipate a country that looks more like China where there are plenty of jobs and air and water that is toxic.

  • Sarah in San Francisco

    Are we really discussing whether or not Dioxins and Arsenic should be regulated along with Mercury? Arsenic is a known poison. And, in my toxicology class at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign we learned that Dioxin is one of the only substances for which there is NO safe level for exposure. One drop can be toxic. 

    What’s more, the neuro-toxin Mercury may be implicated in Autism not through the fairly well disproved vacine theory but through chronic environmental exposure. I would have loved to eat tons of healthy fish during my pregnancies, but as any mother knows, the same fish that is supposed to help my babies brains to develop could also cause neurological damage. 

    This regulation is long overdue and I welcome it.

  • James Ivey

    Of course, one of the costs of coal power not yet discussed is the cost to subsequently re-sequester the carbon that nature had nicely sequestered for us eons ago.

  • Jim L – Cupertino

    My impression is that almost everywhere in the world has higher energy/electrical prices than here in the US.  If my impression is true, how can we point at relatively higher than we have had historically, although still absolutely lower than other countries, energy prices are a driving reason behind the loss of jobs to overseas competitors.  I think, even after these increased costs, US based energy consuming industries will have energy prices as a competitive advantage over their foreign competitors. 

  • Ben

    Will this rule apply to the Lehigh Cement plant in Cupertino which emits airborne mercury or is it restricted to power plants only?

  • Nicole C. Scott

    The guest speaking on behalf of polluting industries (Segal) is referring to data that is hypothetical at best.  We have to allow for progress in order to know what the benefits are in reality. IMHO, the cost of pollution is far greater than the benefit of regulation. For that matter, we have to look at more than economic effects as such a perspective distorts the true impacts of such pollution. Not to mention, the regulations will allow development and implementation of cleaner technologies to meet the new standards, which will certainly bring in more jobs than if nothing was done at all.  We have to allow for progress to be implemented before we can fully realize the benefits. Let us make progress, rather than maintain the status quo and see what happens. I’m sure that the claims Segal makes will be proven moot after the new standards have been in effect over time.

  • Chandra

    Since Scott agrees that reduction in Mercury and Soot levels is good, but the costs are high. Will the industry take the action eventually? May be 10 or even 29 years down the line? The reason EPA has to force rules is ‘cos the Industry has no incentive to do it without regulatory action.

  • cederber

    Why was Scott Segal invited on this program?  There must be someone who’s at least sceptical about this rule who isn’t so obviously bought and paid for.

    (If there isn’t, that speaks volumes…)

  • Brian Carr21

    Did an ybody notice that the industry rep received substantially more time than the Sierra club spokesman?  I think the SC rep did very well, but I question whether one side should be given more time to compensate for the weakness of its arguments.

  • The EPA analysis revealed that for every dollar spent by industry to mitigate emissions, 9 dollars will benefit the economy through public health benefits.
    After 25 years these emissions of mercury and other toxins are overdue and will benefit American health and the health of our waterways.
    This wont immediately benefit us from the greatest source of mercury exposure through fish consumption, especially fish from the San Francisco Bay.
    Between 300,000 and 600,000 of the 4 million babies born in the U.S. each year are exposed to significant amounts of the neurotoxin while in the womb.
    Reducing airborne contaminants will help protect public health but we need to make proper seafood choices.

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