Illinois Coal Plants Ahead of EPA's Proposed Mercury Standards

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According to the Associated Press, with the Environmental Protection Agency's mercury emissions rules set to go into effect soon, EPA data show coal plants in Illinois are already ahead of the new standards. All 23 of the state's coal power plants have reduced mercury emissions by 44 percent from 2008 and 2010 due to a stricter set of standards Illinois adopted in 2007.

Illinois' success with reducing mercury emissions comes after criticism from industry officials and Republicans who assert it will cost companies billions each year to comply while causing job loss and utility prices to rise up to 25 percent. Here are some facts about the rule:

* The EPA proposed the first national standard for mercury emissions on March 16 in response to a court deadline and emphasized that the rule follows President Barack Obama's goal of regulatory reform and protecting the health of the public.

* The agency estimates the new standards will help prevent health problems and serious illnesses for thousands of Americans, including up to 120,000 asthma attacks, 17,000 premature deaths, 11,000 asthma attacks, and 12,000 less emergency room visits and hospital admissions.

* In October, 25 states, a majority with Republican governors banded together to push for a delay in the EPA's coal-fired power plant mercury rule, reported the Hill.

* Similarly, the EPA is refuting industry claims of extreme job loss by saying the air toxins rule will create 31,000 short-term construction jobs in addition to 9,000 long-term jobs.

* While Illinois has seen a sharp decrease in mercury output, four power plants in Ohio, two in Jefferson County and two Gallia County, have been named among the biggest mercury emitters in a report from the Environmental Integrity Project, according to Business First.

* The Indianapolis Star also noted Indiana ranks third in the list of states with the most toxic pollutant emissions, with only Pennsylvania and Ohio placing ahead in first and second place respectively.

* A study released in July concluded that the EPA's new standards would provide an additional $10.5 billion in annual benefits and nearly 80,000 more jobs than originally estimated by the agency, reported the Clean Air Council.

* The study also added that there will likely be a $7.17 billion increase in gross domestic product and about $4.51 billion in healthcare savings as a result of tightening the standards.

* The air toxic rule is expected to be finalized by the EPA this month despite the original deadline being last month.

Rachel Bogart provides an in-depth look at current environmental issues and local Chicago news stories. As a college student from the Chicago suburbs pursuing two science degrees, she applies her knowledge and passion to both topics to garner further public awareness.

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