The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Wednesday proposed the first national limits on mercury pollution from power plants, the largest source of the emissions.
The rules meet a court-ordered deadline to curb the release of mercury and other metals.
“This has been a long time coming and I’m sure there has been a lot of concern about the rules,” said Gwendolyn Keyes Fleming, EPA Region 4 administrator. “But [the limits are ones] that we at EPA have worked very hard on to make sure that it’s done in a reasonable fashion that allows for the most health protection and benefit possible with reasonable cost.”
EPA projected the proposed rules would stop about 91 percent of mercury emitted by burning coal and oil in power plants. They would impact 10 facilities in Georgia.
Keyes Fleming said the regulations will cut 91 percent of the mercury emissions from coal- and oil-fired power plants, 91 percent of acid gases and 55 percent of sulfur dioxide.
She said limiting mercury, arsenic and fine particulates in the air will prevent thousands of heart attacks, asthma attacks, and premature deaths.
Georgia environmental groups applauded the new proposed rules.
“[The rules] will prevent over 12,000 trips to the hospital, save 17,000 lives, so this is a really good day for our health,” said Jennette Gayer, policy advocate with Environment Georgia.
She said the new rules are exactly the direction the nation should be going.
A federal study released two years ago showed Georgia fish have some of the nation's highest mercury levels.
Mercury can cause health problems, especially in children.