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EPA Releases New Mercury and Air Toxics Standards

Today, the Environmental Protection Agency released air pollution regulations to lower emissions of 84 different toxic chemicals, including mercury.

Overall, the rule remains largely unchanged from the its proposed version that was issued for public comment in March. It will provide strong protection for the American public, as the regulations will reduce birth defects as well as asthma, heart disease, and premature death. The benefits of the new rules outweigh their costs at least 3 to 1 – and perhaps as high as 9 to 1. Anyone who says otherwise is blatantly ignoring the price we pay from mercury-related health problems.

Since proposing the rule, EPA has responded to industry’s complaints without substantial sacrifices to public health. To the extent there will be delays in compliance, there will be costs paid by the public in exchange for giving certain facilities extra time to comply with the rule. Waiting one year to implement controls means premature deaths and childhood mercury exposure that could have been avoided. But EPA has said this exception will be used sparingly.

This rule is eminently achievable and despite industry claims to the contrary, there is no real threat of reliability issues. America has a robust system in place to ensure the ample capacity of the nation’s electricity grid. Nothing in this rule will undermine that. Existing technology to cut pollution, new power generation in the pipeline, and flexibility provisions in the rule are more than adequate to ensure that the lights stay on.

Policy Integrity submitted comments on the proposed rule in August.