May 1, 2010 in Nation/World

Mercury emission cuts proposed

Clement Tan Tribune Washington bureau

WASHINGTON – The Obama administration proposed Friday reducing mercury emissions by more than 50 percent and cutting hundreds of tons of cancer-causing toxic metals emitted by industrial boilers, process heaters and solid waste incinerators by December.

The proposal would require large boilers and all incinerators to meet emission limits for mercury – a toxin that can damage the brains and nervous systems of unborn babies and young children – and other pollutants.

Facilities with boilers are also required to conduct energy audits to look for cost-effective ways to reduce fuel use and emissions. Smaller facilities, such as schools with smaller boilers, would not be subjected to these requirements, but they are required to perform tuneups every two years. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said this move would affect 200,000 industrial boilers, process heaters and solid waste incinerators across the country.

The EPA said that when fully implemented, the plan would yield at least $18 billion worth of health benefits annually and prevent up to 5,200 premature deaths and about 36,000 asthma attacks a year.

The EPA estimates it would cost $3.6 billion to install and maintain pollution controls required under these rules.

The plan will be finalized after a public hearing is held. A hearing is likely in June.

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