coal plant

Closing out 2011 on something of a high note, the EPA revealed new standards that would dramatically limit emissions on mercury and other toxins allowed by coal and oil plants.

Marking the first time the U.S. government has limited such emissions, the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards decision could save the government billions of dollars and prevent thousands—if not millions—of cases of health problems resulting from exposure to the toxins including asthma, cancer and birth defects. In a statement, Lisa P. Jackson, the EPA’s administrator said, “By cutting emissions that are linked to developmental disorders and respiratory illnesses like asthma, these standards represent a major victory for clean air and public health—and especially for the health of our children.”

The standards face approval by the courts and Congress, which could block the decision, but President Obama has publically offered his support for the ruling after rejecting a proposal in September on smog emissions, which he cited as too restrictive for the nation’s industry sector. Opposition from republican officials and industry representatives were critical of the rule and will likely seek to block its passing through legal action to prevent the closing of power plants that would no longer be compliant once the ruling goes into effect.

According to a statement on the EPA’s website, “Power plants are the largest remaining source of several toxic air pollutants, including mercury, arsenic, cyanide, and a range of other dangerous pollutants, and are responsible for half of the mercury and over 75 percent of the acid gas emissions in the United States.”

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Image: eutrophication&hypoxia