EPA is proposing new air pollution rules for coal burning and is currently taking public comments on them. It’s pretty incredible that, as reported by the American Lung Association,

  • Coal-fired power plants produce more hazardous air pollution in the United States than any other industrial pollution sources;
  • The Clean Air Act requires the control of hazardous air pollutants from coal-fired power plants, but absent these new rules, no national standards exist to limit these pollutants from these plants; and
  • More than 400 coal-fired power plants located in 46 states across the country release in excess of 386,000 tons of hazardous air pollutants into the atmosphere each year.

No doubt the current state of affairs results from coal-industry lobbying, which is a fact of life whenever pollution control efforts are made. Interestingly, as per the EPA fact sheet on the proposed rules

While newer, and a significant percentage of older, power plants already control their
emissions of mercury, heavy metals, and acid gases, about half of the current electric
generating units (EGUs) still do not have advanced pollution control equipment.

EPA estimates this proposed rule will provide employment for thousands by supporting
31,000 short-term construction jobs and 9,000 long-term utility jobs.

Each year the standards will prevent serious illnesses and health problems for thousands of
Americans, including: up to 17,000 premature deaths, 11,000 heart attacks, 120,000 asthma
attacks, 12,200 hospital and emergency room visits, 4,500 cases of chronic bronchitis, and
5.1 million restricted activity days.

The value of the air quality improvements totals $59 billion to $140 billion each year. That
means that for every dollar spent to reduce this pollution, Americans get $5-13 in health
benefits.

Good for EPA. One important issue: there will be a lot more ash coming from this effort. What to do with it?


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