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Bernard L. Weinstein, National Journal Last December, the Environmental Protection Agency unveiled new standards that sharply limit emissions of mercury and other toxic pollutants from the nation’s coal- and oil-burning power plants. Shortly, EPA will be issuing similar rules for industrial boilers. If the Utility Maximum Achievable Control Technology Rule (U-MACT) is implemented as proposed, more than 60 coal-fired power plants, currently generating enough electricity to supply 22 million households, will likely be shut down because retrofitting would be uneconomical. EPA itself has estimated that U-MACT would impose costs of about $11 billion annually on the U.S. economy. National Economic Research Associates (NERA) puts the costs at closer to $18 billion per year for the next 20 years. The utility industry is already laboring to comply with a myriad of other EPA mandates including greenhouse gas emission reductions, revised air quality standards for sulphur dioxide and nitrous oxide, and new standards for ash and other residuals from coal combustion. Taken together, these regulations will affect about 400,000 megawatts of oil- and coal-fired power generation — almost 40 percent of currently available U.S. capacity. Should all of the proposed implementation deadlines remain unchanged, the reliability of the entire U.S. power grid could be compromised. Read More
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