EPA Sticks to Its Guns |on Mercury Rules

     (CN) — The Environmental Protection Agency is standing by its decision to require power plants to cut emissions of mercury and other air pollutants, to comply with the Clean Air Act.
     The EPA on Friday issued a final finding that it is “appropriate and necessary to regulate hazardous air pollutants from coal- and oil-fired power electric utility” plants across the United States. The EPA said the benefits of limiting emissions outweigh the costs.
     The supplemental filing completes the EPA’s response to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last summer that the agency had not adequately considered the costs to industry before deciding to adopt Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS).
     The Supreme Court’s June ruling did not invalidate the EPA rules, but said it should have done a cost-benefit analysis first.
     The EPA adopted the mercury rules in 2012 and they took effect in April 2015. The rules have remained in effect during the cost analysis.
     “After evaluating several cost metrics relevant to the power sector and considering public comments, EPA finds that the cost of compliance with MATS is reasonable and that the electric power industry can comply with MATS and maintain its ability to provide reliable electric power to consumers at a reasonable cost,” the EPA said .
     It found that the annual cost of complying with the rules would amount to between 2.7 percent and 3.5 percent of electricity sales, and the capital costs between 3 percent and 5.9 percent of annual power sector capital expenditures over 10 years.
     The rules would raise electricity prices by 3.1 percent over 10 years, the EPA said.
     However, for every dollar spent to reduce toxic pollution from power plants, the U.S. public would see up to $9 in health benefits, the EPA said.
     “(T)he $9.6 billion annual cost of MATS is a small fraction of the revenue from the sector’s annual retail sales, which ranged from $272.2 billion in 2000 to a peak of $356.6 billion in 2008,” the agency said in its supplemental finding .
     Power plants are the nation’s largest industrial source of mercury pollution and emit more than half of many toxic air pollutants, including sulfur dioxide and particulates, according to the EPA.
     “Reducing mercury emissions reduces risks of neurological impacts in children, and reducing emissions of other toxic air pollutants decreases risks of cancer and other serious health effects. Reducing particle pollution means fewer premature deaths, asthma attacks, and heart attacks,” the agency said.
     Environmental groups were quick to hail the EPA’s determination.
     “The benefits of protecting the health of our children justifies the relatively modest costs to polluters of controller their mercury, arsenic and other toxic pollution,” Sanjay Narayan, managing attorney for the Sierra Club, said in a statement. “The Mercury and Air Toxic Standards remain a tremendous bargain for the American public.”
     Narayan said most coal plants already have complied with the MATS health protections.
     “The standards are working and should be kept in place,” Narayan said.
     The D.C. Circuit will review the cost assessment and determine whether the standards will remain in effect.

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