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EPA to crack down on mercury, arsenic from power plants

December 15, 2011 |  1:49 pm

The EPA reportedly will seek to tighten rules on the release of toxins from coal-fired power plants.
The Environmental Protection Agency is expected to approve a tough new rule on Friday to limit emissions of mercury, arsenic and other toxins from the country’s power plants, according to people with knowledge of the new standard.

Though mercury is a known neurotoxin profoundly harmful to children and pregnant women, the air toxins rule has been more than 20 years in the making, repeatedly stymied because of objections from coal-burning utilities about the cost of installing pollution control equipment. 

The new regulation is not expected to differ markedly in its rigorous emissions targets and timetable from a draft rule proposed by the EPA in March, said people briefed in broad terms about the rule.

Scheduled to be formally announced Monday, the rule follows on the heels of several Obama administration decisions to shelve environmental rules to mollify a highly critical business community, most notably a decision this summer to halt new standards to reduce smog.

But the long-awaited rule governing toxins is sure to rile powerful utilities and their congressional allies who over the last few weeks have doggedly lobbied the administration to weaken or delay the standards.

“Clean air will be the biggest environmental accomplishment of the Obama administration, and the forthcoming mercury rule will be crowning achievement of an already strong clean air resume,” said John Walke, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Clean Air Program.

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--Neela Banerjee in Washington

Photo: A coal-fired power plant. Credit: Charlie Riedel / Associated Press

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