Tarheel State residents can expect cleaner and healthier air as new national standards for mercury emissions by coal-fired power plants move forward. It's the first time the E-P-A has issued such standards and the move is expected to reduce mercury emissions by 78-percent, according to the agency. The change is also expected to improve air quality for the state, which currently ranks eighth in the country for mercury pollution, says Michael Regan , the southeast energy and air policy director for the Environmental Defense Fund.
Intro: There is mercury in the air North Carolinians breath every day, but that amount is expected to be reduced significantly by new standards announced by the Environmental Protection Agency. The standards will require coal-fired power plants to install the maximum controls available to reduce mercury air pollution. Michael Regan, the southeast energy and air policy director for the Environmental Defense Fund, explains the potential:
"That will significantly impact North Carolina given that there are 42 states that emit mercury at a lower rate than North Carolina does."
There are 67 operating coal-fired power plants across the state in 25 different locations. It's estimated the new standards will take full effect three or four years from now. Regional power companies have said they are committed to installing pollution control technology and that it will take some time to review the nearly thousand page E-P-A document.
It's estimated that for every dollar spent on controlling mercury emissions there is a savings of between five and 13 dollars in health benefits. Regan explains:
"The negative impacts of mercury can be devastating - lung disease, birth defects, vulnerabilities to the nervous system. Those are just some of the side effects and symptoms. "
There will also be a benefit to the economy. The EPA estimates the new rule should create thirty-one-thousand temporary jobs and nine-thousand permanent jobs.