The US Environmental Protection Agency came out with a regulation yesterday that was more than two decades in the making requiring coal- and oil-fired power plants to control emissions of mercury and other poisons for the first time.
About 40 per cent of the roughly 1,400 coal- and oil-fired utilities in the US lack modern pollution controls on toxic emissions and the new requirement would result in shutting down a number of old and dirty plants.
The EPA was given the authority to limit these toxins in 1990, including mercury, arsenic, acid gas, nickel, selenium and cyanide. However, disagreements among federal regulators, industry officials and activists over the best course of regulation had stalled action until now.
Though the full details of the regulation were reported by The Washington Post on last Friday, the day EPA Administrator Lisa P Jackson signed the regulation into law, the rule was held back from the public until yesterday.
Jackson told reporters in a telephone call yesterday that it was a giant victory for public health, especially the health of children.
She added that 15 years ago her youngest son spent his first Christmas in a hospital, struggling to breathe.