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Old 12-29-2011, 08:59 AM
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Default Mercury Emissions Regulations

EDITORIAL: Mercury falling

Akron Beacon Journal, Ohio

Dec. 26--The Obama White House hardly delivered a surprise with its new limits on emissions of mercury and other toxic pollutants from the nation's coal- and oil-burning power plants. The rules have been 20 years in the making. George W. Bush proposed a regulation covering mercury emissions, but he failed in the courts because the rule did not meet the minimum standards of the Clean Air Act. That result is worth keeping in mind, reflecting, as it does, the purpose of the law: To protect public health.

Mercury is a neurotoxin. It can harm the nervous systems of fetuses and young children, leading to lifelong development problems. Mercury emissions fall to the ground via rain and snow, accumulating in rivers and lakes, resulting in advisories about their use, even filtering into the food chain. Other toxic pollutants covered by the new rule, including dioxin, can lead to cancer, premature death, heart disease and asthma.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency calculates that the limits will reduce mercury emissions by 90 percent, preventing 11,000 premature deaths and 4,700 heart attacks per year. It will reduce annual childhood asthma cases by 130,000 and acute bronchitis in children by 6,300. All of that translates into fewer hospital visits (by 5,700 annually). It also means fewer days missed at school and work (a projected 540,000 a year).

The EPA puts the health benefits between $37 billion and $90 billion by 2016.

That range compares favorably to the estimated cost of implementing the limits, power companies facing a tab of $11 billion. The breakdown tracks past experience under the four-decade-old Clean Air Act, benefits outpacing costs.

The point isn't to say implementation will be easy. Ohio ranks as the nation's second leading emitter of mercury pollution. FirstEnergy and especially American Electric Power face making substantial investment.
One option for power companies is closing down aging plants. The Associated Press conducted a survey of plant operators and found that as many as 68 coal-fired plants, or 8 percent of the nation's capacity, will be shut down in the years ahead. The average age of these plants is 51 years, indicating that they already are nearing retirement. Why not just wait? Because that has been the thinking for decades, power companies then finding ways to prolong the life of dirty plants.

Be skeptical, too, of dire warnings about portions of the country losing power. For starters, the rule contains enough flexibility. More, it states clearly, and logically, that if there is a threat to the power supply, the implementation regimen will be adjusted. Know that the North American Reliability Corp. has observed recently that it doesn't think the lights will go out because of the new limits.

For decades, decisions to implement the Clean Air Act have come with some pain. The test has been whether the pollution control has brought benefits overall. Again, the experience has been that it has, and it will likely prove the same now that the country finally has moved to reduce mercury and other toxic emissions.

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Old 12-29-2011, 09:31 AM
jfh jfh is offline
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Coal may become too expensive for heating and electricity generation. There are several recent TV commercials promoting "clean" coal. That cleanliness comes with a heavy price as technology tries to keep up. That price will be passed to the customer no doubt.

I'm very happy when the EPA wants to make me breath cleaner air or drink cleaner water. It is hard to believe when politician or presidential candidates what to banish the EPA. We need it. I think it tries to keep things under control and mostly does things gradually. These businesses must have known how things would progress and should have been trying harder to keep up. I do worry when some small endangered species can stop the progression of civilization. But I'm actively working with two endangered songbirds versus encroaching civilization. I understand their plight. Home developers are already clearing land, even though there is very much land elsewhere they can use, people are not even buying homes now. Two sides to the story now.
- Jim
That which does not kill us makes us stronger. -Friedrich Nietzsche
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