EPA orders coal-powered plants to cut mercury

The smoke stacks at American Electric Power's (AEP) Mountaineer coal power plant in New Haven, West Virginia.
The smoke stacks at American Electric Power's (AEP) Mountaineer coal power plant in New Haven, West Virginia. Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

The federal Environmental Protection Agency today issued the first national standards on mercury and other pollutant emissions from coal-powered plants.

The new rule gives coal-powered generators four years to install the technology that’ll cut toxic pollutants like mercury, arsenic, nickel and cyanide. Agency chief Lisa Jackson says the new safeguards will prevent more than 130,000 cases of childhood asthma symptoms.

She says 15 years ago, her youngest son "spent his first Christmas in the hospital, fighting to breathe. And like any parent of a child with asthma, I can tell you that the benefits of clean air protections like that are not just statistics or abstract concepts."

When you think of coal power, you generally think of the East Coast. But L.A.'s Department of Water and Power gets 39 percent of its electricity from coal-powered plants in Arizona and Utah. Southern California Edison owns almost half of another coal-powered plant in New Mexico.

In a statement, LADWP says it's "reviewing the final rules for the Mercury and Air Toxics Standard," and will "work closely with the owners of the two coal power plants that supply energy to Los Angeles to determine a course of action to achieve future compliance."

This story has been updated.

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