A new Environmental Protection Agency ruling will have a major impact on coal-fired power plants across the country. The regulation, announced yesterday by Administrator Lisa Jackson, will require plants to make drastic cuts in emissions of mercury, hydrogen chloride and other gasses.
It could lead to the closure of up to ten Pennsylvania power plants.
The rule would require deep cuts in emissions of mercury, acid gases and soot from coal-fired power plants and is likely to help reshape the industry as companies turn off old plants and decide whether to clean up existing ones or switch to cleaner-burning fuels such as natural gas. It will cost about $9.6 billion annually to implement but will provide substantially more in health benefits each year, including 100,000 fewer heart and asthma attacks, the Environmental Protection Agency said.
Manufacturers and power plants are already pushing back against the regulation, according to the article, calling it “a train wreck” and “the most expensive rule in the [EPA’s] history.”
But as the National Journal reports, the EPA argues the rule will improve health, and help create new, greener jobs.
EPA says the mercury rule will prevent up to 11,000 premature deaths and prevent thousands of respiratory illnesses, which could translate into $90 billion in health and economic benefits a year.
“EPA estimates that manufacturing, engineering, installing, and maintaining the pollution controls to meet these standards will provide employment for thousands, potentially including 46,000 short-term construction jobs and 8,000 long-term utility jobs,” according to the agency.
What does this mean for Pennsylvania? The Post-Gazette takes a look:
A Natural Resources Defense Council report in July listed Pennsylvania as having the second-worst toxic air emissions in the nation, behind Ohio, and Pennsylvania’s mercury emissions are second to Texas. Mark Baird, a spokesman for GenOn, owner of 18 power plants in Pennsylvania, said the company wouldn’t comment on the rules until it has an opportunity to examine them in detail.
FirstEnergy, which owns four coal-fired power plants in Pennsylvania, including Hatfield’s Ferry power plant in Greene County and Bruce Mansfield power plant in Shippingport, Beaver County, also said it is reviewing the rules. When the rules were proposed earlier this year, FirstEnergy estimated compliance costs at $2 billion to $3 billion.