On Dec. 16, EPA plans to finalize its mercury standards for the nation's 1,200 coal-fired power plants and 150 oil-burning units. Coal will be hit the hardest because it is the dirtiest form of energy (though it's also the cheapest and provides nearly half of America's electricity). Current law says all companies must comply with the rule by 2015. The fight has boiled down to whether EPA should announce it will give all companies more time to comply at the same time it publishes the rule this month, or whether the agency should decide on a case-by-case basis what individual companies need more time depending on the circumstances at any particular power plant. ...In Washington-speak, that basically means this: If you support EPA's current timeline for complying with the rule, you're supporting public health but not a strong economy, and dismissing concerns about widespread grid-reliability problems. If you don't support EPA's current timeline, you're supporting a strong economy and grid reliability but not public health. Utilities don't fit neatly into either position. ...Washington's polarizing gap was on display at a debate this summer between pairs of lobbyists representing each side: Jeff Holmstead and Scott Segal of Bracewell & Giuliani, which represents coal-fired utilities like Southern Company, Progress Energy, and Duke Energy, versus Michael Bradley, executive director of the Clean Energy Group (which includes cleaner-burning utility companies like Constellation and NextEra Energy), and John Walke, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council's Clean Air Program. ... Other key players include Tom Kuhn, president of the Edison Electric Institute, whose member companies range from cleaner-burning utilities to coal companies; and Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund, which has been lobbying utility CEOs to support the rule and its current timeline.
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