Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson on Wednesday unveiled the nation’s first-ever national standards for mercury and other toxic air pollution from power plants, saying they will save 11,000 lives a year and save billions of dollars.
The sweeping regulations—mandated by Congress in 1990 and delayed by prolonged litigation, lobbying, and legislative battles—will require utilities to cut at least 90 percent of their emissions of mercury, a neurotoxin known to cause brain damage and other health problems, particularly in developing fetuses and young children.
“The Mercury and Air Toxics Standards will help protect millions of families and children from harmful and costly air pollution and provide the American people with health benefits that far outweigh the costs of compliance,” Jackson said.
President Obama weighed in via video message.Obama threw his support behind Jackson’s effort—albeit via video.
“For over two decades, emissions standards for our power plants, which are the dominate source of toxic pollution, were never put in place. That was wrong,” Obama said. “Today my administration is saying enough. We're announcing common sense, cost-effective standards to dramatically reduce harmful air pollution.”
Obama’s support for this rule is almost the polar opposite of his decision in September to shelve for at least two years EPA’s tougher smog standard. Jackson had also said that rule would help prevent respiratory diseases. Obama decided that since EPA was required by law to revisit the smog standard in two years anyways, the agency should not toughen the rule now.