The EPA has posted its final mercury/toxic standards for power plants. http://www.epa.gov/mats
We obviously haven’t had a chance to scrutinize all aspects of this, but here are a few quick thoughts:
This is truly history in the making. It is indeed a landmark accomplishment. After more than two decades of delay, dirty coal-fired power plants are going to be cleaned up in short order. The dirty, soot-spewing coal plant will soon become a relic of the past – a dirty industrial dinosaur.
Today’s action ensures that the cleanup of coal-fired power plants will be the signature clean-air achievement of the Obama administration. These standards complement the first cleanup phase embodied in EPA’s so-called Cross-State rule. In our opinion, these standards combined are more significant than the laudable vehicle fuel economy standards because cleaning up dirty power plants translates directly into massive health benefits. Americans everywhere will breathe easier – and will find fish safer to eat. And the EPA bent over backwards to accommodate concerns about electric reliability.
To understand how really positive today’s action is, one only need listen to the squeals coming from cleanup opponents. They lost this one.
On that note, a quick point. It has been alleged that the prior Bush administration issued the “first-ever” mercury standards for power plants.
Well, not really. Those of you who have been around will recall that the Bush EPA issued a more industry friendly cap-and-trade scheme calling for a reduction in the overall national amount of mercury from power plants over a very protracted timetable. Some analysts projected that the overall emissions would be reduced by about 69-70%, but not until 2026! Even then, many plants would have avoided any mercury emission controls. Oh, and by the way, a federal appeals court tossed out the Bush plan as obviously illegal (it did not require all power plants to meet a standard) and even made fun of the Bush crowd, saying they had used “the logic of the Queen of Hearts.” http://www.cadc.uscourts.gov/internet/opinions.nsf/68822E72677ACBCD8525744000470736/$file/05-1097a.pdf
In any event, the standards issued today will require much more cleanup much more quickly than the weak Bush approach.
A final note: you will doubtless observe as we did that some of the projected costs and benefits are both lower than those projected in EPA’s March proposal. As I understand it, these are the result of some things that have happened in subsequent months. For example, TVA agreed to a massive, multi-billion dollar cleanup in April
To avoid any legitimate charge of “double counting” benefits, EPA removed those benefits (eg, up to 3,000 premature deaths a year avoided by the TVA cleanup) from those itemized today. Likewise, because of new lower projections of natural gas prices. EPA is not counting air pollution benefits resulting from companies ramping up gas use or building new gas plants chiefly for economic reasons. Similarly, EPA now expects some companies to use less costly pollution controls than previously anticipated because of comments it received.