The Obama administration, under the leadership of Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson, is finally closing loopholes in the Clean Air Act that allowed coal plants built before 1970 to have uncontrolled pollution. The EPA has established two rules for these dirty power plants, the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule that curbs pollution that crosses state lines, and the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards that finally limit mercury pollution. These rules, which would save tens of thousands of lives a year and improve the health of millions of Americans, have been the target of brutal attack by polluters and their conservative allies. The Associated Press’s Dina Cappiello surveyed the plant operators who would be affected by these rules, and discovered that the “average age of the plants that could be sacrificed is 51 years“:
The average age of the plants that could be sacrificed is 51 years. These plants have been allowed to run for decades without modern pollution controls because it was thought that they were on the verge of being shuttered by the utilities that own them. But that didn’t happen.
The number of plants that will be shuttered, the AP found, is as low as 32 and as high as 68. The survey, “based on interviews with 55 power plant operators and on the Environmental Protection Agency’s own prediction of power plant retirements, rebuts claims by critics of the regulations and some electric power producers.”
These dirtiest coal plants in America are toxic dinosaurs, enjoying loopholes in the original Clean Air Act of 1970 and the updated rules in 1990. Some of the plants were built when Harry S Truman was president.
“We can’t say there isn’t going be an issue. We know there will be some challenges,” John Moura, manager of reliability assessment at the North American Electric Reliability Corp., told AP. “But we don’t think the lights are going to turn off because of this issue.”
In the AP’s survey, “not a single plant operator said the EPA rules were solely to blame for a closure,” because coal prices are going up, natural gas is cheaper, and state clean air rules and existing EPA rules discouraged keeping the dirtiest coal plants open.
Defenders of coal pollution who have raised panic about America’s lights turning off because of the EPA include the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), and presidential candidate Jon Huntsman Jr.