Monday, February 21, 2011

White House begins review of crucial plan to clean up mercury, other toxics from coal-burning power plants

Later today or tomorrow, the US EPA is expected to announce it has moved forward – under duress – with controversial new toxic air pollution standards for industrial boilers. We anticipate the agency will seek to stay the effective date of these rules and move soon to reconsider them.

But this could be a sideshow to an even more critical regulatory plan – one that seeks to clean up mercury and other toxic pollutants from coal-fired power plants.

The White House Office of Management and Budget reports (below) that it has begun reviewing EPA’s proposed power plant cleanup plan. The EPA is under a court directive to issue the proposal by next month and to set final standards later this year.

This is probably the single most critical air pollution cleanup standard we will see this year. (At least for the near term. Upcoming national smog standards will also be critical, but over a longer time frame. The much-talked-about greenhouse gas rules will have a far lesser impact.)

As we have pointed out before, the electric power industry has evaded toxic air pollution standards for more than two decades. Coal burning power plants are a huge source of airborne poisons. It is high time that power plants are cleaned up.

We anticipate that the EPA proposal will not only call for a crackdown on toxic mercury – known to poison the brains of babies – but also will limit emissions of such poisons as arsenic and acid gases. Some analysts have projected not only that the EPA rules could continue a trend of shuttering old coal plants in favor of those powered by natural gas or renewable energy, but that these standards will also create jobs.

Needless to say, the coal burning industry and its friends on Capitol Hill would like to sidetrack EPA. As we reported last week, Congressman Ralph Hall offered a budget amendment that would have meddled in the cleanup. It was tossed out on a point of order. But we anticipate industry attacks will intensify because the stakes are so high. Stay tuned.

Pending EO 12866 Regulatory Review
RIN: 2060-AP52
Received Date: 02/19/2011

Title: National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants for Coal- and Oil-Fired Electric Utility Steam Generating Units

Agency/Subagency: EPA / AR
Stage: Proposed Rule

Legal Deadline: Judicial
Economically Significant: Yes

International Impacts: No
Affordable Care Act [PPACA, P.L. 111-148 & 111-152]: No

Dodd-Frank Act [Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, P.L. 111-203]: No

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