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New Pressure on U.S. EPA to Delay Final Mercury Rule

A proposed rule to limit mercury from coal-fired power plants took center stage at a divisive Congressional hearing this week

By Elizabeth McGowan, SolveClimate News

Jun 17, 2011
Lisa Jackson

Conservation organizations such as the are opposed to the idea of extending the comment period until September. NRDC is also a litigant in the court case involving the mercury rule.

In an online article titled "," John Walke, the advocacy organization's clean air director, asked readers to consider the sources of data as opponents and proponents of EPA's air toxics rule for power plants.

"Do you believe doctors at the American Lung Association and American Academy of Pediatrics, EPA scientists, and dozens of peer-reviewed studies that power plants' air pollution is very harmful and cleaning it up will deliver significant health benefits to all Americans, especially children?" Walke asked.

"Or do you believe the nation's most heavily polluting utility company, Washington utility lobbyists and the 'hypothesis' of a conservative congressman that this pollution does not pose significant health risks and controlling the pollution will not deliver real benefits?"

Utilities Claim Compliance a Burden

Standards for emissions of mercury and other pollutants from utilities will be exceedingly tough because the Clean Air Act requires EPA authorities to gather real-world evidence and match the highest standards.

During testimony at Boxer's hearing, senior vice president Cathy Woollums explained how the mercury rule would affect . More than half of the 7,048 megawatts of MidAmerican's nationwide generating capacity is fueled by coal.

Under the rule, her company estimates it would spend more than $1.7 billion outfitting coal-burners at its two regulated utilities — MidAmerican Energy Co. and PacifiCorp — with scrubbers and other clean air technologies. She added that some units might have to be shut down or be converted to natural gas.

"MidAmerican, like many utilities, is concerned about the costs and timetables for the implementation of these EPA rules," Woollums said. "Especially in this economic climate, it is critical to minimize the cost impact of these rules, which ultimately will be borne by our customers."

She also pointed to two numbers bandied about that estimate the potential impact of the mercury rule and other EPA Clean Air Act regulations. The Department of Energy figures new rules would shave off 35 to 70 gigawatts of generating capacity. Similarly, the National Economic Research Associates predicts that 47.8 gigawatts of coal-fired generating capacity would be idled by 2015.

That came on the heels of an announcement by American Electric Power that complying with a list of EPA regulations would come at the expense of 600 power plant jobs with annual wages totaling $40 million. AEP, one of the country's largest coal-burning utilities, installing emissions reduction equipment would create "some" jobs.

Columbus, Ohio-based AEP owns nearly 38,000 megawatts of generating capacity and delivers electricity to more than 5 million customers, mostly in the Midwest.

Some Utilities on Board

Not all power companies and their affiliates are opposed to EPA's efforts to regulate mercury and other pollutants. Some want the new standards to be initiated sooner rather than later.

"Companies have begun to prepare for a 2015 compliance deadline, and the electric power markets are factoring in the capital expenditures that will be required to comply with the rule," an organization called the wrote in a June 15 letter to Jackson. "Any delay would threaten to undermine those decisions."

Members of the group include Austin Energy, Constellation Energy, Exelon Corp., National Grid, New York Power Authority, NextEra Energy, PG&E Corp. and Seattle City Light.

You would think the

You would think the Republicans would be anxious to protect the unborn fetus from mercury poisoning. I guess they don't really care. Seems they just want the anti-abortion vote, nothing more.

Sen. Ed Muskie is from Maine

"spirit of former Minnesota Democratic Sen. Ed Muskie", not Minnesota, Maine. 


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