Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson snuck in a few shots at a coal utility when testifying before the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee.

Those jabs were directed at American Electric Power, a utility company that has been vocally opposed to the EPA’s planned power plant regulations under the Clean Air Act. Last week, AEP, which is one of the largest coal burning utilities in the country, claimed that the proposed EPA rules would prompt a wave of coal plant closures and job losses around the country.

Jackson wasn’t buying the argument. She said the comments were “misleading at best and scare tactics at worst.” Jackson made those comments following the committee meeting where senators were discussing the Clean Air Act. When delivering her testimony before the committee, Jackson called AEP’s claims “doomsday” scenarios.

AEP’s specific claims are that cleaning their power plants of mercury and other toxic emissions would increase electricity costs, force the closure of five coal-fired power plants and result in the loss of 600 jobs. It is a strong case to make during the current economic hole that the United States is trying to climb out of.

But Jackson has some powerful arguments in her arsenal. She decided this was the day to unload that ammo, saying that letting utilities like AEP continue to operate as they currently do would allow for 17,000 premature deaths, 120,000 cases of childhood asthma and 850,000 days of missed work due to illness.

So while AEP and Jackson go back and forth with their statistics, the reality is that the new power plant rules proposed by the EPA were announced back in March. This is important because it means the required comment period for the rules is coming to an end. AEP is requesting an extension of that comment period. Jackson told reporters that “we have to listen to those requests and we will be announcing something soon."

Also on MNN: How much mercury is in the fish we eat?

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