First Stop: Health. Next Stop: Carbon?

EPA should be congratulated on issuing the final mercury and air toxics standards (MATS) for utilities. These rules are more than 20 years in the making and establish for the first time federal regulations to control mercury and other toxic emissions from power plants. EPA estimates that the rule will reduce mercury emissions from coal-burning plants by 90% which is a tremendous accomplishment.With these reductions, up to 11,000 premature deaths, 4,700 heart attacks, 130,000 asthma attacks, and 5,700 emergency room visits will be prevented each year.

Of the approximately 1,100 coal fired electric generating units covered by this rule, 60% already have advance pollution controls in place. CCAP board member company PSEG installed $1.3 billion in control technologies to meet New Jersey’s standards which are as stringent as the new federal standards.  PSEG was on the forefront of advocating for the MATS rule with its chairman and CEO Ralph Izzo declaring in a letter to the Wall Street Journal that, “These regulations are not the death knell you would have everyone believe, but provide a clear path for responsible coal generation.  Action is long overdue.”

From a climate perspective, however, EPA still has its work cut out for it.  With less than 5 GW coal generating capacity expected to retire because of this rule, the co-benefit of greenhouse gas emission reductions will likely be small. In fact, EPA estimates only a 0.7% reduction in CO2 emissions. For this reason, EPA still needs to proceed with developing rules to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to address climate change. Nevertheless, we applaud EPA for this significant step forward in leveling the playing field and requiring the remaining 440 coal plants to clean up their toxic emissions.



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