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EPA Issues Mercury Regulations

EPA regional director Al Armendariz
EPA regional director Al Armendariz

By Bill Zeeble, KERA News

Dallas, TX – For the first time ever, the Environmental Protection Agency has proposed limiting toxic pollutants from coal-fired power plants. Those emissions include mercury, lead and arsenic. KERA's Bill Zeeble reports Texas has more coal fired plants than any state in the country.

The EPA's Region 6 Administrator, Al Armendariz, says these standards are long overdue, because mercury especially attacks women of childbearing age, unborn babies, and young children.

Armendariz: Mercury is something that can impair children's ability to learn & to think, and it's one of the pollutants of greatest concern to the EPA.

Armendariz says the new rule means companies must install the latest clean air technology. He says many Texas coal fired plants lack it, He mentioned plants near Longview, in Freestone and Limestone counties as facilities whose emissions will be cleaner because of this regulation.

Armendariz: We're now moving forward with standards that Congress envisioned in 1990. We're going to get tremendous public health benefits and phase implementation to 2014 or 2015 to give sources time to comply with the rules with out any kind of economic disruption.

But an industry group, the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council, says the EPA's proposal will cost more than $100 billion nationwide, and lead to surprisingly few benefits. It'll cost thousands of jobs. Dallas - based Luminant, which runs several Texas coal fired plants, says it already voluntarily installed emission cleaning systems in advance of any state or federal mandates. It also says its own new technology will offset all mercury emissions from its 3 news coal fired plants. It adds that will reduce mercury emissions below 2005 levels.

Email Bill Zeeble