The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced that it is proposing to regulate emissions from coal-fired power plants. The proposals include measures intended to limit mercury emissions and would require utilities to install the equipment necessary to eliminate 91% of all mercury emissions from such installations, within four years.
According to EPA, the plans would affect 1350 coal and oil powered units at 525 power plants. In addition to the mercury emission standards being proposed, adequate measures would be taken to prevent arsenic, chromium and nickel emissions along with acid gases like HCL and HF. EPA is also proposing a new source performance standard (NSPS) for particulates, SO2 emissions from new sources.
The agency estimates that the move could save up to 17,000 lives every year by 2015 and also reduce instances of childhood asthma, acute bronchitis and also save 8,50,000 lost work days a year.
However, the proposals are being fiercely rejected by the power industry, with some representatives arguing that the final additional electricity cost as part of implementing these regulations would be much higher than EPA assumptions of $3-4 a month.
Texas is likely to be particularly affected given that it has more coal-fired power stations than any other state, with at least 17 in operation and another 12 planned and in the permitting process.
The proposals will be open to public comment for 60 days once it is published in the Federal Register. The plan is not expected to be finalized until this year end or in early 2012.