how does mercury kill Re: question: mercury air pollutionfrom coal fired electric plants
BTW, in case anyone is interested, U.S EPA as shakled by the Son of a
Bush's press release on the non-MACT determination.
Dec. 15, 2003
EPA Proposes Options for Significantly Reducing
Mercury Emissions from Electric Utilities Action
$ On December 15, 2003 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed a
permanently cap and reduce mercury emissions from power plants for the first
$ In a separate but closely related action known as the "Interstate Air
Quality Rule", EPA
will propose a regulation to improve air quality in the Eastern United
proposal would address windblown air pollution by requiring states to reduce
dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions. States could comply with
requirements through a cap and trade system based on the successful Acid
$ EPA believes it makes sense to address mercury, SO2 and NOx emissions
simultaneously. These rules would protect public health and the environment
interfering with the steady flow of affordable energy for American consumers
$ The health benefits of addressing mercury, SO2, and NOx in an integrated
dramatic. EPA expects this suite of actions to reduce the number of asthma
and heart attacks around the country by lowering the levels of fine
particles and groundlevel
ozone in the air. By reducing mercury levels, it also would reduce potential
for pregnant women and young children who consume certain fish from local
$ EPA is proposing two alternatives for controlling emissions of mercury
from utilities and
will take comment on the alternatives before taking final action. The
1. proposed rule requiring utilities to install controls known as "maximum
achievable control technologies" (MACT) under section 112 of the Clean Air
Act. If implemented, this proposal would reduce nationwide emissions of
by 14 tons (29 percent) by the end of 2007; and
2. proposed rule establishing "standards of performance" limiting mercury
emissions from new and existing utilities. This proposal, under section 111
Clean Air Act, would create a market based "cap-and-trade" program that, if
implemented, would reduce nationwide utility emissions of mercury in two
phases. In the first phase, due by 2010, emissions will be reduced by taking
1 advantage "co-benefit" controls - that is mercury reductions achieved by
SO2, and NOx. emissions. When fully implemented in 2018, mercury emissions
be reduced by 33 tons (69 percent).
EPA's modeling projects that applying this approach to controlling mercury
emissions from utilities will yield much greater health and environmental
than could be achieved through a traditional MACT standard. This modeling is
based on the successful Acid Rain Trading Program, which resulted in more
emissions reductions than required, sooner than required, and at less cost
consumer than expected with a very high rate of compliance.
· EPA also is proposing to revise its December 2000 finding that it is
and necessary" to regulate utility hazardous air emissions using the MACT
provisions (section 112) of the Clean Air Act. This action would give EPA
to consider a more efficient and more cost effective way to control mercury
$ EPA will take comment on this action for 60 days after publication in the
Register. EPA intends to hold two public hearings on this proposed rule.
$ This mercury proposal coupled with the proposed Interstate Air Quality
Rule calls for the
largest single industry investment in any clean air program in the past
Mercury Emissions - Both Naturally Occurring and Man-made Sources
$ Mercury is a toxic, persistent pollutant that accumulates in the food
chain. Fossil fuelfired
utilities are the largest source of human-generated mercury emissions in the
$ Concentrations of mercury in the air are usually low and of little direct
However, atmospheric mercury falls to Earth through rain or snow and enters
rivers and estuaries. Once there, it can transform to its most toxic form,
and accumulate in fish and animal tissues.
$ Americans are exposed to mercury primarily by eating contaminated fish.
developing fetus is the most sensitive to the toxic effects of mercury,
women of childbearing
age are regarded as the population of greatest concern. Children who are
exposed to low concentrations of methylmercury prenatally are at increased
risk of poor
performance on neurobehavioral tasks, such as those measuring attention,
function, language skills, visual-spatial abilities, and verbal memory.
$ The proposed standards of performance establish a cap-and-trade system for
based on EPA=s proven Acid Rain Program. The Acid Rain Program has produced
remarkable and demonstrable results, reducing SO2 emissions faster and at
costs than anticipated, and resulting in wide-ranging environmental
2 $ Under the cap-and-trade approach proposed in this rulemaking, EPA would
each state specified amounts of emission "allowances" for mercury. The
allocate those allowances to utilities, which would trade them. A utility
sufficient allowances to cover its emissions each year, so the limited
allowances ensures that the required reductions are achieved.
$ The mandatory emissions caps in the proposed standards of performance,
with significant automatic penalties for noncompliance, would ensure that
and environmental goals would be achieved and sustained. At the same time,
emissions monitoring and reporting requirements make flexibility possible.
flexibility of allowance trading creates financial incentives for utilities
to look for new and
low-cost ways to reduce emissions and improve the effectiveness of pollution
$ The Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 required EPA to complete two studies
to mercury and report their findings to Congress. One focused on the health
environmental impacts of mercury, the other focused on hazardous air
including mercury, from utilities.
$ In a pair of 1994 legal settlements, EPA agreed to revised deadlines to
studies. EPA also agreed to make a determination about whether MACT
was appropriate and necessary and, if necessary propose a MACT standard to
hazardous air emissions from coal and oil-fired utilities.
$ The "Mercury Study" analyzed mercury emissions from utilities and other
sources, the health and environmental impacts of those emissions and
technologies. EPA issued the Mercury Study in December 1997.
$ In the "Utility Report" to Congress, issued in February 1998, EPA analyzed
of toxic air pollutants, including mercury, from utilities.
$ The 1994 agreements were modified several times. In 1998, EPA agreed to
regulatory determination by December 2000; to propose regulations by
2003; and to finalize regulations by December 15, 2004.
· In December 2000, EPA announced that it would regulate emissions of
other air toxics from coal- and oil-fired electric utilities under section
112 of the Clean
Air Act. While this announcement did find that it was necessary and
control mercury emissions from utilities, it did not specify what those
levels of control
would be. To do so would have prejudged the outcome of the Agency's
3 $ Under the MACT provisions of the Clean Air Act, sources commonly are
three years to comply with emission reduction requirements. For an industry
generation, which has many facilities requiring controls, the MACT approach
concerns about how quickly new control technologies could be put into place.
the short compliance window would preclude the effective use of developing
technologies. Relative to an allowance trading system, the MACT also
options and incentives for power plants to achieve low-cost reductions.
costs could lead to increased electricity prices.
$ MACT standards also generally require industries to meet limits that are
demonstrated by a number of existing facilities. EPA would like to explore
ways of achieving reductions greater than those being achieved through
$ Currently, there are no adequately demonstrated control technologies
designed to reduce mercury emissions from coal-fired utilities. However,
available data that indicate controls for reducing emissions SO2 and NOx
effective, in some cases, at reducing mercury emissions from coal-fired
utilities. This is
another reason EPA believes it important to couple the mercury rule with the
Air Quality Rule. The degree of removal depends in part on the type of coal
$ EPA's goal is to provide the highest degree of mercury control possible
the safety, affordability, and reliability of the nation's electricity
supply. These actions
involve a range of options that will encourage the development of new
reduce emissions of mercury beyond that which would occur from the
a traditional MACT standard alone.
For More Information
C For information on the mercury proposal, visit [Only registered users see links. ]
C For information on the proposed Interstate Air Quality Rule, visit [Only registered users see links. ]