EPA Proposes Costly Mercury Restrictions

Published April 11, 2011

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is proposing to force power plants to reduce mercury and other emissions by 91 percent, but consumer advocates and job creators warn the restrictions will achieve few human health or environmental benefits while raising consumer prices and killing jobs
‘Concerned About the Economic Impact’
EPA estimates its rule could cost the U.S. economy $11 billion per year to implement. Power plants will bear the direct costs but will pass those expenses on to electricity consumers.
Melissa McHenry, senior manager for corporate media relations and policy communications at American Electric Power (AEP), said the costs imposed by EPA’s proposed restrictions will hurt consumers.

“American Electric Power supports continued emission reductions in a coordinated, realistic, and cost-effective manner that achieves the same long-term environmental benefits while protecting customers, the economy, and the reliability of the power system” McHenry said. “We are concerned about the economic impact of this proposal on our customers.”
Says EPA Lowballed Cost Estimates
EPA’s cost-increase estimates are skewed, McHenry said, and the cumulative economic impact of EPA restrictions could be far higher than EPA claims.
“The real cost to the U.S. economy and the impact on utility customers dependent on coal-fueled electricity won’t be known until the impact of all the pending rules affecting coal plants—including the Transport Rule, the coal ash rules, the 316B rule for water intakes, updated effluent guidelines, and this proposed rule—are evaluated,” she said. “But for customers who received power from coal-fueled power plants, the electricity price increases won’t be insignificant.”
Calls Mercury Fears Overblown
Todd Myers, environmental director for the Washington Policy Center, says EPA’s proposed restrictions are based on unsubstantiated fears instead of scientific facts.
“While mercury certainly is toxic,” Myers said, “the question is, ‘Are the low-level emissions from coal plants impacting human health?’ In Washington state, the only county with a coal plant, Lewis County, has a rate of cancer below the state average. If the mercury is impacting human health, it simply isn’t showing up in the data.”
Mercury scares, Myers noted, have probably led to more fatalities than actual mercury poisonings.
“Unscientific claims about the impact of mercury in fish on pregnant women robbed developing babies of critical nutrients that science has shown are overwhelmingly positive.”
Back-Door Global Warming Plan
Myers says the real motivation behind the proposed mercury restrictions is climate alarmism, with mercury restrictions amounting to a back-door attempt to shut down coal power plants.
AEP, meanwhile, characterized the EPA’s handling of the issue as disorganized and shortsighted about maintaining the levels of power to which Americans are accustomed.
“The uncoordinated approach EPA is taking to new regulations on coal-fueled power plants will increase the cost and economic impact of achieving additional environmental benefits, and it raises concerns about maintaining the reliability of the power grid,” McHenry said. “A longer, coordinated compliance timeline and increased flexibility will reduce the cost and economic impact on our customers.”

Cheryl K. Chumley ([email protected]) writes from northern Virginia.