Cleaner air, please

EPA gets closer to wiping out power-plant emissions

Twenty years after the Clean Air Act called upon it to do so, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed nationwide standards for power plants to reduce toxic air pollution, according to an EPA press release.

The new Power Plant Mercury and Air Toxics Standards were released in response to a court deadline and will require power plants to install widely available technologies in the next four years that reduce mercury, arsenic, chromium, nickel and acid-gas emissions. With the changes alone, the EPA predicts 17,000 premature deaths and 120,000 cases of childhood asthma will be prevented, as well as various other health problems.

Coal- and oil-fired power plants are responsible for half of the mercury emissions and more than half the acid-gas emissions in the U.S. The pollutants can lead to neurological damage, birth defects and lower IQ in children during gestation and early development.

A public comment period on the proposed standards is now open.