ATLANTA (May 26, 2011) – Today the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will hear public comments from citizens about the first-ever federal limits on mercury pollution from coal plants. EPA estimates that these new standards would prevent 91 percent of the mercury in coal emitted by coal plants from being released to the air. The Southeast is home to almost 300 coal units that collectively emitted over 20,000 pounds of mercury into the air in 2005 alone. This proposed rule represents perhaps the most important clean air announcement since the Clean Air Act amendments in 1990, in terms of positive impact on human health and the environment.
Dr. Stephen A. Smith, Executive Director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, had the following statement in regards to this hearing:
“Coal-fired power is one of our dirtiest and most costly choices for electricity. We are pleased that the EPA has finally taken the necessary steps to propose a strong rule limiting mercury and other hazardous air pollutants from coal plants. For far too long the oldest and dirtiest coal plants have continued to operate because they are cheap for utilities, but accounting for health and environmental costs, they are extraordinarily expensive for citizens. This rule will force coal to either clean up or shut down.
“In a single year nearly 300 coal units here in the Southeast combined to release over 20,000 pounds of mercury into the air. It takes only one teaspoon of mercury to poison an entire lake and research shows that most of the mercury released from coal plants is deposited locally. So it is no surprise that every state in this region has mercury-related fish consumption advisories. If EPA fails to follow through on these strong regulations it won’t only be the region’s 6.5 million anglers who are ignored, it will also be expectant mothers, children and anybody else who is concerned about public health and the environment.
“Given the importance of EPA’s mercury and air toxics proposal, individuals from across the country have already submitted supportive comments on this rule and hundreds more will speak in favor at today’s hearing in Atlanta.
“Mercury safeguards have been too long in the making, so we urge EPA to maintain this strong proposed rule and to finalize and implement it without delay.” # # # Southern Alliance for Clean Energy is a nonprofit organization that promotes responsible energy choices that create global warming solutions and ensure clean, safe, and healthy communities throughout the Southeast.www.cleanenergy.org