Health advocacy groups have worked for decades to get the Environmental Protection Agency to require coal and oil-burning power plants to restrict emissions of mercury, dioxin, lead, arsenic and other toxic pollutants that can cause cancer, heart and developmental diseases, asthma and premature deaths. Though more than a dozen states have adopted such rules on their own to spare their citizens the health-damaging consequences of such pollution, electric power industry lobbyists have generally pressured Washington to resist establishment of federal standards on such toxins. Last week, the EPA and the Obama administration finally imposed the standards.
The new rule, 20 years in the making, marks a huge and notable Christmas gift of cleaner, healthier air in the near future. If it is fully implemented over the next four years, studies show it will save tens of thousands of lives and diminish health care costs by an estimated $90 billion.
The new rule to restrict the electric industry’s worst emitters of toxic air pollution is, indeed, long overdue. Even TVA agrees its past time to clean-up or shut-down its dirtiest old plants. Resisting this rule in Congress would be myopic and wrong-headed. Americans deserve cleaner, healthier air. It’s time they got it.