WASHINGTON – Yesterday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its proposal to update and strengthen the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) for coal-fired power plants to account for developments in control technologies since MATS was issued in 2012.
“This proposal is an important step in the right direction, but EPA must do even more to reduce this harmful pollution and protect public health and the environment,” said Hayden Hashimoto, Attorney at Clean Air Task Force. “Mercury, for example, is a potent neurotoxin, and nine of the other regulated hazardous air pollutants have been classified as either human carcinogens or probable human carcinogens. It is important that EPA further reduce toxic air emissions from power plants where new technologies are available or where there are significant changes in the costs and effectiveness of control technologies. Developments in the power sector over the last decade show much more can be done to reduce this pollution.”
Since 2012, the MATS rule has significantly reduced air pollution from the power sector, and the Clean Air Act requires periodic check-ins to ensure that EPA limits these particularly harmful emissions to the extent technology improvements and developments permit. Information about power plants and controls shows that there is still significant potential for affordable reductions in emissions of mercury, particulate matter (which serves as a surrogate for metal hazardous air pollutant emissions), and acid gas pollution from the power sector. Developments in control technologies, including activated carbons, fabric filter materials, and wet and dry scrubbing and dry sorbent injection enable coal-fired power plants to reduce their emissions and achieve better performance than the current standards require.
“We look forward to commenting on this proposal and urge EPA to consider even stronger and more health-protective options,” continued Hashimoto. “The proposal adopts some beneficial and cost-effective measures—strengthening the surrogate standard for non-mercury metal hazardous air pollutants, strengthening the mercury standard for lignite-fired plants, requiring the use of continuous emission monitoring systems, and removing the work practice standards for the extended startup period. EPA can do more, however, to require that plants achieve more stringent emissions levels, including by replacing the work practice standard for toxic organic hazardous air pollutants with numeric standards and eliminating the waste coal unit subcategory. Strengthening the MATS rule based on the technology review will better protect public health and the environment from toxic air pollution.”
About Clean Air Task Force
Clean Air Task Force (CATF) is a global nonprofit organization working to safeguard against the worst impacts of climate change by catalyzing the rapid development and deployment of low-carbon energy and other climate-protecting technologies. With 25 years of internationally recognized expertise on climate policy and a fierce commitment to exploring all potential solutions, CATF is a pragmatic, non-ideological advocacy group with the bold ideas needed to address climate change. CATF has offices in Boston, Washington D.C., and Brussels, with staff working virtually around the world. Visit catf.us and follow @cleanaircatf.