EPA To Set Strict Pollution Standards For Power Plants

December 14, 2011

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. -- New rules from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would require power plants to install pollution controls to cut mercury, arsenic and other harmful emissions. Power plants are responsible for half of mercury emissions in the United States.

Earlier this year, EPA administrator Lisa Jackson said cutting these air pollutants will prevent thousands of premature deaths and heart attacks.

"These new standards will help lower exposure to toxins that make American children vulnerable to neurological damage and other health challenges," Jackson said in March.

The Navajo Generating Station in northern Arizona is a coal-fired plant that’s already spent millions of dollars to cut nitrogen oxide emissions.

Photo courtesy National Park Serivce.
Navajo Generating Station.

And these new standards come at the same time the plant’s lease is up for renewal by the tribe. The plant’s spokesman, George Hardeen, said in October the Navajo Nation relies on coal for jobs.

"The Navajo Generating Station has served as an economic anchor for almost 40 years," Hardeen said. "When Navajos leave the Navajo Nation, they take with them their language, their culture and their way of life. If there are no jobs on the Navajo Nation, they don’t return."

The new mandates would cost as much as $1 billion to upgrade each of the three plants on or near the reservation.

But the EPA argues for every $1 spent to reduce pollution from power plants, Americans will see up to $13 in health and economic benefits.