EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said, "By cutting emissions that are linked to developmental disorders and respiratory illnesses like asthma, these standards represent a major victory for clean air and public health and especially for the health of our children. With these standards that were two decades in the making, EPA is rounding out a year of incredible progress on clean air in America with another action that will benefit the American people for years to come. The Mercury and Air Toxics Standards will protect millions of families and children from harmful and costly air pollution and provide the American people with health benefits that far outweigh the costs of compliance."
"Analyses conducted by the EPA and the Department of Energy (DOE) indicate that the MATS Rule is not anticipated to compromise electric generating resource adequacy in any region of the country. The Clean Air Act offers a number of implementation flexibilities, and the EPA has a long and successful history of using those flexibilities to ensure a smooth transition to cleaner technologies. The Clean Air Act provides 3 years from the effective date of the MATS Rule for sources to comply with its requirements. In addition, section 112(i)(3)(B) of the Act allows the issuance of a permit granting a source up to one additional year where necessary for the installation of controls. As you stated in the preamble to the MATS Rule, this additional fourth year should be broadly available to sources, consistent with the requirements of the law. . . The EPA has concluded that 4 years should generally be sufficient to install the necessary emission control equipment, and DOE has issued analysis consistent with that conclusion. While more time is generally not expected to be needed, the Clean Air Act offers other important flexibilities as well. . ."
The President indicates that, "To address any concerns with respect to electric reliability while assuring MATS' public health benefits, I direct you to take the following actions:
EPA indicated it estimates that manufacturing, engineering, installing and maintaining the pollution controls to meet these standards will provide employment for thousands, potentially including 46,000 short-term construction jobs and 8,000 long-term utility jobs.
"1. Building on the information and guidance that you have provided to the public, relevant stakeholders, and permitting authorities in the preamble of the MATS Rule, work with State and local permitting authorities to make the additional year for compliance with the MATS Rule provided under section 112(i)(3)(B) of the Clean Air Act broadly available to sources, consistent with law, and to invoke this flexibility expeditiously where justified.
"2. Promote early, coordinated, and orderly planning and execution of the measures needed to implement the MATS Rule while maintaining the reliability of the electric power system. Consistent with Executive Order 13563, this process should be designed to "promote predictability and reduce uncertainty," and should include engagement and coordination with DOE, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, State utility regulators, Regional Transmission Organizations, the North American Electric Reliability Corporation and regional electric reliability organizations, other grid planning authorities, electric utilities, and other stakeholders, as appropriate.
"3. Make available to the public, including relevant stakeholders, information concerning any anticipated use of authorities: (a) under section 112(i)(3)(B) of the Clean Air Act in the event that additional time to comply with the MATS Rule is necessary for the installation of technology; and (b) under section 113(a) of the Clean Air Act in the event that additional time to comply with the MATS Rule is necessary to address a specific and documented electric reliability issue. This information should describe the process for working with entities with relevant expertise to identify circumstances where electric reliability concerns might justify allowing additional time to comply."
EPA said power plants are the largest remaining source of several toxic air pollutants, including mercury, arsenic, cyanide, and a range of other dangerous pollutants, and are responsible for half of the mercury and over 75 percent of the acid gas emissions in the United States. EPA also indicated that more than half of all coal-fired power plants already deploy pollution control technologies that will help them meet these achievable standards. Once final, these standards will level the playing field by ensuring the remaining plants -- about 40 percent of all coal fired power plants -- take similar steps to decrease dangerous pollutants.
EPA indicated that the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards and the final Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, which was issued earlier this year [See related article below], are the most significant steps to clean up pollution from power plant smokestacks since the Acid Rain Program of the 1990s. EPA said that combined, the two rules are estimated to prevent up to 46,000 premature deaths, 540,000 asthma attacks among children, 24,500 emergency room visits and hospital admissions. The two programs are an investment in public health that will provide a total of up to $380 billion in return to American families in the form of longer, healthier lives and reduced health care costs. EPA also released two summaries of support comments from organizations, medical associations, environmental organizations, House & Senate members and others [See links below].
"We wholeheartedly share this and previous administrations' goals of protecting public health and the environment, but the rushed implementation of this rule could undermine the nation's economic recovery. Utility companies and the independent organizations responsible for the reliability of the electric grid have expressed their grave concerns about this rule for months. Yet the final rule, like the earlier proposed rule, provides no certain additional time. The rule will require power plants to be shut down, significantly modified, or replaced, and for gas pipeline and electric transmission infrastructure to be built. Making these sweeping changes to business operations is a long-term process and it is unrealistic to think businesses can comply with this rule within three years, with an uncertain prospect for limited additional time, particularly in light of the significant regulatory burdens companies will face in siting and permitting these large projects. We urge the administration to reconsider the unrealistic implementation timetable for the Utility MACT rule and the effects it will have on American businesses of all sizes. Jobs, our economy, and the reliability of our electricity grid are at stake."