EPA Announces New Power Plant Rules

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is mandating changes across the eastern region of the United States that are meant to reduce <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/practice_areas/toxic_substances">long-distance air pollution. The Baltimore Sun, which noted that this type of pollution impacts about 240 million Americans, said that the EPA is requiring power plants in the region to significantly reduce emissions.

The rule was announced yesterday and mandates that coal-fired plants in 27 states make these reductions in sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions by 2014. The pollutants are contributors, said The Baltimore Sun, to dangerous health issues such as asthma, bronchitis, and heart attacks.

The response from power companies has been mixed, with some saying they would have no choice but to close their “oldest plants” and others calling the move “warranted and manageable,” said The Baltimore Sun.

The new rule requires power plants to reduce sulfur dioxide emissions by 73 percent from 2005 levels; nitrogen oxide must be reduced by 54 percent, The Baltimore Sun reported.

“No community should have to bear the burden of another community’s polluters, or be powerless to prevent air pollution that leads to asthma, heart attacks and other harmful illnesses,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson in a statement, quoted The Baltimore Sun.

In Maryland, for example, at least half of their ozone forming and smog producing pollutants that are present in the summer actually come from out-of-state. EPA data, said The Baltimore Sun, confirmed that ozone pollution in that city came from states as far away as Michigan, Indiana, North Carolina, and New York. As with Maryland, these four states are included in the 27 states covered in the new rule. Of note, Maryland’s ozone travels to Connecticut.

The limits should also help with cleanup to the Chesapeake Bay, according to officials, who noted that about half of the nitrogen that leads to algae blooms and dead zones there is caused by air pollution, with half of that pollution moving, via air currents, to other states, said Richard Batiuk, associate director of EPA’s Chesapeake Bay office.

Earlier this year we wrote that the EPA announced proposed national guidelines for mercury and other air toxins that are released from power plants. That announcement followed a court-mandated deadline and requires most power plants to install so-called “pollution control technologies.”

Mercury can accumulate in the body, making diseases and disorders difficult to diagnose. The EPA has previously said that high mercury levels can damage major organs as well as the immune system, especially in the developing fetus. Mercury can also cause neurological, kidney, and brain damage; skin rash; and vision problems and brain damage and developmental delays in children and the unborn developing fetus.

The EPA was ordered by the D.C. Court of Appeals to finalize those rules by November; power plants have three years in which to comply, as well as a potential one-year extension should the technology not be installed in time.

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