In a recent post
, I noted how the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, the power companies and
environmentalists had joined forces in supporting a federal EPA effort to reduce pollution coming from other power plants that ended up in New Jersey. However, Governor Chris Christie, no doubt holding the national party line, refused to support an EPA effort that would give the federal agency any more power than it already has.
Luckily, Christie's opposition did not seem to matter, as just this Wednesday the EPA issued new rules benefitting New Jersey "by forcing coal-fired power plants to reduce their emissions
of mercury, arsenic, acid gas, nickel and cyanide by 2014," according to Seth Augenstein at The Star Ledger.
New Jersey implemented strict rules regarding toxic pollution in 2004, and with mass amounts of toxic pollution wafting in from the West, it became harder and harder for New Jersey power plants to meet the standards, even though they weren't producing a significant amount of the pollution.
While the new regulation does affect some New Jersey power plants, it has a far greater effect on plants in other states. According to Augenstein, "the EPA estimates the seven New Jersey power plants that will need to cut back emissions disperse 68 pounds of mercury into the air a year, while western neighbor Pennsylvania has 38 power plants that pump out more than 4,000 pounds of mercury a year, much of which falls down on New Jersey."
Many feel the new regulations are a long time coming. The Clean Air Act, passed in 1990 and famous for the nearly unanimous support for emissions trading (to fight acid rain, which it did successfully), included language regarding toxic emissions of mercury and the other dangerous substances, but the rules were held up in court for more than 20 years.
As one might imagine, the electric power generation industry is extremely opposed to the new rules. "The rule suffers from statistical errors, inaccurate technological assumptions and inadequate economic and reliability analysis," said Scott Segal, director of the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council. "Given that the rule is one of the most expensive air rules ever, the American public deserves better."
The numbers Segal refers to are the EPA's assertions that the new regulation nationally "will prevent 11,000 premature deaths per year and 4,700 heart attacks, as well as thousands of cases of asthma and bronchitis."
I'm not sure how the generation industry would do in a public relations battle over whether reducing the amount of mercury and arsenic spewed into the atmosphere by dirty coal power plants is a good thing, but I have a feeling they would lose it, overwhelmingly.