Tag Archives: Toxic Pollution

12/21/2011 Washington Post: Will the EPA’s mercury rule cause a wave of blackouts?

Will the EPA’s mercury rule cause a wave of blackouts? No.Posted by  at 08:45 AM ET, 12/21/2011: Later this afternoon, EPA administrator Lisa Jackson is expected to roll out the agency’s new regulations on mercury and toxic pollution from coal-fired power plants. That raises some questions: Just how many plants will end up getting shuttered as a result of all of the EPA’s new air-pollution rules? And how much of a pain will this be?The main plant facility at the Navajo Generating Station in Page, Ariz., which could be at risk of closure. (Ross D. Franklin/AP)

It’s a hotly debated topic these days, with industry groups (and plenty of Republicans)predicting possible blackouts and economic havoc, while environmentalists have mostly been rolling their eyes. So, to help settle this debate, the AP’s Dina Cappiello recently surveyed 55 power-plant operators across the country. She found that as many as 68 coal-fired plants — up to 8 percent of the nation’s coal generation capacity — will shut down in the years ahead. (The Edison Electric Institute has estimated that up to 14 percent of coal capacity could be retired by 2022.) That’s no easy task. But, from the available evidence, it also won’t likely prove apocalyptic.

Cappiello’s survey found that the coal plants set to be mothballed are mostly ancient — the average age was 51 — and largely run without modern-day pollution controls, as many of them were grandfathered in under the Clean Air Act. What’s more, many of these plants were slated for retirement in the coming years regardless of what the EPA did, thanks to state air-quality rules, rising coal prices, and the influx of cheap natural gas. “In the AP’s survey,” she writes, “not a single plant operator said the EPA rules were solely to blame for a closure, although some said it left them with no other choice.”

Crucially, none of the operators contacted by the AP seemed to think that huge swaths of America were on the verge of losing power, as Jon Huntsman claimed. An official from the North American Reliability Corporation put it this way: “We know there will be some challenges. But we don’t think the lights are going to turn off because of this issue.” This jibes with an Edison Electric Institute study, as well as a Department of Energy study(which focused on worst-case scenarios), a study from M.J. Bradley & Associates, and the EPA’s own modeling (PDF). Utilities will manage to keep the power running, in part by switching to natural gas, as plenty of gas plants currently operate well below capacity.

At this point, there’s good reason to think that utilities can retire their oldest and dirtiest plants without crushing disruptions. It won’t be simple or cost-free — the EPA estimatesthat the mercury and air toxics rule alone will cost utilities at least $11 billion by 2016 to install scrubbers on their coal plants, and those costs will likely get passed on to households. On the flip side, the reduction in mercury is expected to prevent some 17,000 premature deaths per year and provide an estimated $59 billion to $140 billion in health benefits in 2016.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/ezra-klein/post/will-the-epas-mercury-rule-cause-a-wave-of-blackouts-no/2011/12/20/gIQALEu88O_blog.html

Mike Eisenfeld

New Mexico Energy Coordinator

San Juan Citizens Alliance

108 North Behrend, Suite I

Farmington, New Mexico 87401

office 505 325-6724

cell 505 360-8994

meisenfeld@frontier.net

5/31/2011 NRDC Would You Like Cancer-causing or Brain-poisoning Pollution With That Electricity?

NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) Staff Blog by Pete Altman: Hundreds of people have said no to toxic pollution from power plants near them by attending U.S. Environmental Protection Agency hearings. The last one is today in Atlanta — if you can’t make it, support the EPA’s proposals to make power companies cut the amount of mercury, arsenic, chromium, acid gases & other nasty stuff they release into the air by TAKING ACTION: http://b/ Next time you flip on the light switch, how would you respond if a little voice asked you “Thanks for your order. Would you like cancer with your electricity? How about some brain-poison?” Weird question, right? Unfortunately, power companies are one of the biggest toxic polluters in the US, dumping millions of pounds of cancer-causing, brain-poisoning toxins like arsenic and mercury into the air each year. The toxins are found in the coal that is burned to supply about ½ of our nation’s electricity.

This week, hundreds of people have shown up to hearings in Philadelphia and Chicago organized by the US Environmental Protection Agency to say “no thanks” to toxic pollution from power plants, and support the EPA’s proposals to make power companies reduce the amount of mercury, arsenic, chromium, acid gases and other nasty stuff they release into the air.

(To let the EPA know you support reducing toxic pollution from power plants, take action here.)

As the Associated Press explained,

Several hundred people, from environmentalists and physicians to mothers and fishermen, testified before a panel of federal environmental officials on Tuesday to urge the passage of proposed new standards to limit the amount of air pollution that coal-fired power plants can release into the atmosphere.”

One those physicians was Dr. Kevin Osterhoudt, medical director of the poison control center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, who said

Young children are uniquely vulnerable to the toxic effects of environmental poisons such as mercury and arsenic. These compounds are especially dangerous to the developing brain and nervous system.

Some of the speakers pulled no punches. As the Philadelphia Inquirer reported,

Rabbi Daniel Swartz leaned toward the microphone at Tuesday’s hearing on proposed federal rules to limit mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants.

By allowing emissions to continue, “we have, in effect, subsidized the poisoning of fetuses and children,” the Scranton rabbi said.

In Chicago, a similar scene unfolded, as the Chicago Tribune reported, with supporters of limiting toxic air pollution coming out in force, as noted by Chicago radio station WBEZ:

Midwesterners who testified at a public hearing in Chicago Tuesday afternoon were overwhelmingly in favor of the proposed EPA plan.”

One of those speaking in Chicago was NRDC’s Shannon Fisk, who focused on the critical need for EPA to act swiftly to reduce toxic pollution, saying,

[Some] in industry are pushing EPA to delay …my question to these agents of delay is how much is enough. How many lives are they willing to sacrifice in order to have even more time to install pollution controls that have been available for decades?”

Polling shows that throughout the nation, Americans strongly support reducing toxic air pollution from industrials sources. A February 2011 survey by Public Policy Polling revealed that 66% of Americans support “requiring stricter limits on the amount of toxic chemicals such as mercury lead and arsenic that coal power plants and other industrial facilities release.”

The EPA’s final hearing on the toxics rules is in Atlanta today. But going to a hearing isn’t the only way for concerned citizens to weigh in.

If you’d like to say “no thanks” to cancer-causing and brain-poisoning toxins from power plants, send a comment directly to the EPA in support of the toxics proposals by using our quick and easy action page.