Praise, Scorn Over New Mercury Rules

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WASHINGTON, Dec. 22 (UPI) — Action by U.S. environmental regulators on mercury pollution is overdue though at least one critic says new standards are a blow to the utility sector.

U.S. President Barack Obama used a presidential memorandum to direct the Environmental Protection Agency to implement new mercury and air toxics standards.

The EPA said most of the pollutants targeted in the new standards come from power plants, which are responsible for about half of the mercury emissions in the United States.

About half of the coal-fired power plants have technology in place to curb emissions and the new standards would require most of the rest to take similar steps to decrease pollutants.

Amanda Starbuck, an advocate with Rainforest Action Network, said burning coal was a detriment to public health, noting the EPA standards were long overdue in an economy shifting toward greener alternatives.

“Rather than invest millions of dollars to keep these ailing coal plants open, the best way forward for the utility sector is to retire the coal fleet and invest in a truly clean, renewable energy infrastructure, fitting of the 21st century,” she said.

But U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., chairman of a House subcommittee on energy, told Fox News the new rules not only harmed the reliability of the utility sector but would hurt communities that depend on coal as well.

“We do know that that there will be a significant loss of jobs because many coal power plants are going to be closed as a result of this regulation,” he said.

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