Bipartisan bill would cut mercury emissions by 90 percent from coal plants;
Posted on February 4, 2010
WASHINGTON – Sens. Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today introduced The Clean Air Act Amendments of 2010, legislation that would cut mercury emissions by 90 percent from coal-fired power plants and tighten national limits on emissions of sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOX).
The legislation is co-sponsored by Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), Edward Kaufman (D-Del.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine).
Sen. Carper said: “Twenty years have passed since Congress passed significant revisions to the Clean Air Act. While there have been some significant environmental progress along the way, clearly we can do better. If the legislation we are introducing today is enacted, we will do much better. The Clean Air Act Amendments of 2010 provides us an opportunity to work across the aisle, something we do too rarely these days. Passage will not only help us clean up our nation’s power sector and our nation’s air, it also will provide the certainly and predictability that an important industry in America needs. And, it provides us an opportunity to work with utilities, with environmentalists, and with towns and communities across America to improve the lives and health of tens of millions of Americans in the years to come.”
“This bill is about good health, tourism and jobs. Half a million Tennesseans suffer from asthma, and 400,000 of them are at risk because of poor air quality, so we must act now on getting these harmful pollutants out of the air. Mercury can contaminate our crops and water supply, ultimately harming brain function and other vital organs, and is especially harmful to children and pregnant women. Sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides can contribute to respiratory illness and other lung diseases,” said Sen. Alexander. “And millions of people come to the Smokies every year to see the ‘blue haze’ the Cherokees sang about, not the grey smog that power plant emissions help to create. Tennessee cities by themselves will not be able to make our air clean enough to comply with new EPA regulations and attract auto suppliers and other new jobs to Tennessee unless strong national standards stop dirty air from blowing into Tennessee from other states.”
According to the American Lung Association, 186 million Americans live in areas where air pollution endangers lives. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that the Clean Air Act Amendments would save more than 215,000 lives and more than $2 trillion in health care costs by 2025, by cleaning the air and thereby reducing Americans’ likelihood of suffering from chronic lung disease, asthma, or lung cancer.
Additionally, EPA is moving forward with enhanced National Air Ambient Quality Standards to reduce these pollutants, and when these requirements are implemented, as many as 650 counties nationwide could be considered out of compliance and therefore subject to stricter air quality standards, which makes it very difficult to create and retain jobs. This legislation would help communities meet these air quality standards, so that new manufacturers can get clean air permits so they can build new facilities – and hire new workers.
Specifically, the bill would require utilities, through the use of emissions-control equipment (such as “scrubbers” on smokestacks) and other technologies, to:
- Cut SO2 emissions by 80 percent (from 7.6 million tons in 2008 to 1.5 million tons in 2018).
- Cut NOX emissions by 53 percent (from 3 million tons in 2008 to 1.6 million tons in 2015).
- Cut mercury emissions by at least 90 percent no later than 2015.
To ensure that regulations are cost-effective, the legislation also establishes nationwide trading systems for SO2 and NOX emissions to ensure that reductions are cost-effective. Mercury emissions would be reduced by EPA by utilizing the maximum available control technology
It has been 20 years since Congress tightened the Clean Air Act. The EPA has tried to regulate stricter controls on nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide and mercury since the late 1990s, but court challenges have invalidated those proposals.