Fri., December 16, 2011 3:45pm (EST)

Feds Crack Down On Mercury
By Josephine Bennett
Updated: 2 years ago

MACON, Ga.  —  
(GPB file photo)
(GPB file photo)
In response to a court deadline, the federal Environmental Protection Agency Friday proposed new limits on mercury emissions by power plants. Some electric companies are balking at the deadlines.

The rules are 20 years in the making. EPA says power plants are responsible for 99 percent of mercury emissions. Burning coal to create electricity releases the metal into the air, and it then lands in waterways where it contaminates the fish people eat.

Mark Williams with Georgia Power says the state currently requires plants to remove 85 percent of the neurotoxin. The new federal rules raise that number to 91 percent.

“The bag houses are almost like a giant vacuum cleaner. The emissions go through there and through a series of actions where most of that mercury is removed.”

Williams says the four-year deadline will threaten reliability and drive up costs for consumers. EPA officials say it will reduce health care costs and create construction jobs.