The Obama administration gave the American people an early Christmas present when the EPA announced new protections from mercury pollution from power plants on Wednesday, December 21, 2011. Considering that power plants are the largest source of mercury emissions to the air in the U.S., totaling about 50 percent, this is good news. Coal-fired plants, in particular, release more than 33 tons of mercury into the air and water every year, according to the Sierra Club. The new rules will reduce mercury pollution from power plants by over 90 percent, the Sierra Club estimates.
The new rule will also reduce emissions from arsenic, chromium, nickel and acid gases, including hydrochloric acid and hydrofluoric acid. The EPA estimates that power plants are responsible for 77 percent of acid gas emissions, and are the leading source of emissions of arsenic, nickel and chromium.
Although some power plants already meet the standards in the rule, about 40 percent of coal-fired units covered by the rule do not meet the new standards. The EPA estimates that there about 1,400 power plants, 1,100 coal-fired units and 300 oil-fired units, affected by the rule.
The health benefits of the rule include avoiding 4,200 to 11,000 premature deaths by 2016. The rule will also avoid (by 2016):
- 2,800 cases of chronic bronchitis
- 4,700 heart attacks
- 130,000 cases of aggravated asthma
- 5,700 hospital and emergency room visits
- 6,300 cases of acute bronchitis
- 140,000 cases of respiratory symptoms
- 540,000 days when people miss work
- 3.2 million days when people must restrict their activities
Although it will cost an estimated $9.6 billion to meet the rule, the health benefits associated with meeting the standards are $37 billion to $90 billion in 2016.
The Sierra Club’s Executive Director Michael Brune said in a statement that the rule means that in the U.S. “we now have strong nationwide protections against toxic mercury.” Brune added that over 800,000 public comments “were filed in support of the protection.”
There were also more than 58,000 Care2 members who signed the petition and made this happen.
Kudos to the Obama administration for listening to the 800,000 Americans, including many of who, who filed public comments and signed the petition in support of the rule which will make our air and water cleaner. If you want to send congratulations to the Obama administration, sign the petition titled Thank President Obama for Standing Strong on Mercury Pollution.
Thanks to our Care2 members for making a difference!
Photo credits: Flickr user, lowjumpingfrog