News / USA

EPA Moves on US Power Plant Emissions Rules

In this July 1972 photo provided by the U.S. National Archives entitled "Burning Discarded Automobile Batteries," black clouds billow from smokestacks in Houston, Texas (file photo).
In this July 1972 photo provided by the U.S. National Archives entitled "Burning Discarded Automobile Batteries," black clouds billow from smokestacks in Houston, Texas (file photo).
Jessica Berman

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency plans to regulate the largest remaining source of uncontrolled toxic air pollution in the United States: coal- and oil-fired power plant emissions. The new rules -- 20 years in the making -- will affect 1300 power plants, half of which lack modern air-pollution controls.

Most power plants affected by the rules were built in the 1970s, before clean-air technologies were developed that capture, or "scrub," smokestack pollutants, notably mercury from burning coal, before they are released into the air.

Mercury is a neurotoxin that can cause severe birth defects and impair cognitive and fine motor skill development in children.

The new EPA rules require the dirtiest power plants to reduce emissions of mercury, arsenic, chromium, nickel and acid gases by more than 90 percent within the next three-to-four years or be shut down.

Retrofitting old power plants with smokestack "scrubbers" will also significantly reduce the amount of black particulate matter, or soot, released into the air. Soot has been linked to higher rates of asthma and heart disease.

EPA administrator Lisa Jackson, who chose to announce the new regulations at a Washington, D.C. children's hospital, said the new air-pollution limits will protect the health of all Americans.

“When we talk about cutting hundreds of thousands of cases of respiratory symptoms, we’re talking about young people who can go outside and be with their friends without the worries that they will be struggling to breathe," she said. "When we talk about reducing mercury levels in our environment, we’re talking about lower amounts of mercury in the fish that Americans eat every day. We’re talking about the fact that coming generations will grow up exposed to lower amounts of toxic pollution in the air they breathe.”

The EPA rules could cost the power industry upwards of $10 billion dollars, and many companies will have to decide whether to comply or shut down their old coal- and oil-powered plants.

Misty Allen is a spokesperson for GenOn (JEN-on) Energy, a company based in Houston, Tex., that operates both natural gas and coal-fired power plants that were built in the 1970s. Allen says her company will be directly affected by the new EPA rule.

“At this stage we are still evaluating the rule and evaluating which technologies are appropriate or whether or not individual units would retire or shut down," she said. "So, that’s still under consideration by the company."

Asked whether consumers will end up paying higher electricity bills because of the EPA rule, Allen has a ready answer.

“As with everything in the market, yes.”

Most environmental groups have praised the EPA ruling. One leading organization, the Union of Concerned Scientists, is hailing the agency's move, saying the benefit to public health in limiting smokestack emissions far outweighs the price tag for the pollution controls. But the group adds that the new pollution controls were long overdue.

You May Like

Multimedia Brussels Schools, Metro Reopen Under Heavy Guard

City remains under the highest threat alert level due to what authorities have described as a 'serious and imminent' threat of attack

Video Debt-ridden Refugees Await Onslaught of Lebanese Winter

Aid agencies are attempting to reduce potentially devastating consequences of freezing conditions and snowstorms that killed eight last year, including three Syrian refugees

Americans Think About Strange Stuff at Thanksgiving

Millions of Americans are celebrating Thanksgiving, but they’re not necessarily thinking about turkey and stuffing

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against ISi
November 24, 2015 3:04 AM
The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs