Subject to a 2009 Federal Court consent decree, on December 21 the Obama Administration issued the first federal standards aimed at protecting the public from mercury and other toxics in emissions from coal and oil fired power plants. Public health organizations, scientists, and environmental groups applauded what many see as a major milestone, coming after many years of study into the health benefits and economic costs. Implementation of the new standards will affect most of the nineteen coal-fired power plants in western Pennsylvania, plants that were identified in the Post-Gazette’s ‘Mapping Mortality’ series. We can now expect Congressional friends of Big Coal to attempt to roll back these important new standards. ACTION: Please THANK President Obama for the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, and urge him to mightily resist any attempt to roll back or delay their implementation.
The implications of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) for Pennsylvania will be significant. According to the EPA, these new standards will prevent up to 530 premature deaths in Pennsylvania while creating up to $4.4 billion in health benefits in 2016. They will place further pressure on local power plants listed earlier this month among the top ten power plants for toxic emissions; #3. Genon’s Shawville Station, New Florence, Westmoreland County, #7. Edison International’s Homer City, Indiana County, and #9. First Energy’s Bruce Mansfield, Shippingport, Beaver County.
The question may arise whether these outdated plants should be replaced with Marcellus shale gas fired plants, and to what extent aggressive conservation and adoption of alternate energy sources can fill the supply gap. That is a challenge for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign.
Basic MATS Information, from the EPA Website:
Until now there have been no federal standards that require power plants to limit their emissions of toxic air pollutants like mercury, arsenic and metals – despite the availability of proven control technologies, and the more than 20 years since the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments passed.
- These rules finalize standards to reduce air pollution from coal and oil-fired power plants under sections 111 (new source performance standards) and 112 (toxics program) of the 1990 Clean Air Act amendments.
- Emissions standards set under the toxics program are federal air pollution limits that individual facilities must meet by a set date. EPA must set emission standards for existing sources in the category that are at least as stringent as the emission reductions achieved by the average of the top 12 percent best controlled sources.
- These rules set technology-based emissions limitation standards for mercury and other toxic air pollutants, reflecting levels achieved by the best-performing sources currently in operation.
- The final rule sets standards for all HAPs emitted by coal- and oil-fired EGUs with a capacity of 25 megawatts or greater.
- All regulated EGUs are considered major under the final rule. EPA did not identify any size, design or engineering distinction between major and area sources.
- Existing sources generally will have up to 4 years if they need it to comply with MATS.
- This includes the 3 years provided to all sources by the Clean Air Act. EPA’s analysis continues to demonstrate that this will be sufficient time for most, if not all, sources to comply.
- Under the Clean Air Act, state permitting authorities can also grant an additional year as needed for technology installation. EPA expects this option to be broadly available.
- The regulations issued today are under a Consent Decree of the D.C. Court of Appeals requiring EPA to issue a proposal by March 16, 2011, and a final rule in December 16, 2011.
- These standards are long overdue. In 2000, after years of study, EPA issued a scientific and legal determination that it was “appropriate and necessary” to control mercury emissions from power plants. The prior administration finalized a rule to cut mercury pollution from power plants, but the D.C. Circuit struck the rule down and required EPA to develop standards that follow the law and the science in order to protect human health and the environment.