In a monumental final rule issued near the end of 2011, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized the first federal regulations for curbing mercury emissions and other toxic air pollutants produced by aging coal- and oil-fired power plants. The Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) will cut mercury emissions from power plants by 90 percent, acid gas emissions by 88 percent, and SO2 emissions by 41 percent, according to the agency.
MATS aims to improve public health not only by reducing toxic air pollution but also by decreasing the amount of mercury that settles in waterways and bioaccumulates in fish—a phenomenon that can cause neurological damage in humans when they eat tuna and other predatory species. Utilities have four years to either shut down non-compliant plants or install pollution controls. EPA estimates the new rule will create 46,000 construction jobs and 8,000 utility jobs while raising electricity prices approximately 3 percent.
Copyright 2012 by BuildingGreen Inc.