Here is an article that presents the EPA’s point of view in regard to the new regulations. It doesn’t seem like they talked about radiation much at all.
State legislators and community activists staged a public-health and clean-air roundtable discussion Thursday night at Lower Merion High School.
The discussion centered on proposed new standards by the Environmental Protection Agency on mercury and air toxics. The aim of the new standards is to reduce toxins released from power plants.
EPA officials say the new standards would require power plants to install pollution-control technologies to cut emissions of mercury, arsenic, chromium, nickel and acid gases.
“Today the EPA proposed the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, the first-ever national standards for reducing mercury and other toxic air pollutants from power plants,” EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson recently announced.
Thursday night’s meeting at Lower Merion was meant to inform the public about the new standards, which will come up for national public comment in the coming months.
Adam Garber, the PennEnvironment field director who led Lower Merion’s discussion, said the proposed EPA rule would cut mercury pollution by 90 percent from power plants and other industrial sources.
“Power plants in Pennsylvania are the second largest source of mercury pollution in the entire country when it comes to power plants, right behind our friends in Texas,” Garber told the few dozen people in attendance.
Mercury is a neurotoxin that creates developmental disorders, he explained.
Garber and other speakers opined that in the coming months power-company officials will start lobbying the public against the new rules. One of the arguments he said the industry would use to counter clean-air and water laws is that it would cost businesses more money and jobs.
“There are two reasons this is just a bad argument,” Garber said.
He said the rules would save 17,000 lives and benefit countless others who have trouble breathing every day.
“Now to me 17,000 lives is worth quite a lot and I think we should be saving those lives. They could figure out other solutions for our economy like clean energy,” Garber said.
Garber went on to cite a second reason: the Clean Air Act is the most money-saving environmental law in the nation’s history.
“Recent estimates show that it had a 30-to-1 cost-savings benefit when you look at the cost to the industry compared to the health-benefits savings and other savings in the Clean Air Act,” Garber said. “It’s actually responsible for trillions of dollars in savings when it comes to these over the last few decades.”
An EPA press release also says the new rules are designed to prevent 11,000 heart attacks a year. They would also provide particular health benefits for children, preventing 120,000 cases of childhood asthma and about 11,000 cases of acute bronchitis among children each year. It says the proposed standards would also avert more than 12,000 emergency-room visits and hospital admissions and mean 850,000 fewer days of work missed due to illness.
EPA officials added that the new standards will create jobs.
“These standards will also support 31,000 short-term construction jobs and 9,000 long-term utility jobs,” Jackson said.
Walter Tsou, with Philadelphia Physicians for Social Responsibility, said over the past 20 years the discussion on pollution from the power plants has been continuing while more pollution has been dumped into the air.
“Right now we’ve been spilling an estimated 386,000 tons of this coal-fired smoke into the air,” said Tsou. “There are no regulations as to how much smoke can be emitted from these power plants as things stand and we’ve been living like this for some 20-some years.”
The proposed regulation by the EPA is the outgrowth of that lack of regulation, Tsou said.
“Finally we are getting the opportunity to fight back,” Tsou said.
According to Tsou, the status quo must change.
“We can’t continue to breathe toxic air like we are right now and basically give our water supply, our food supply, the air that we breathe the 368,000 tons of pollutants that we do every year,” he said.
Tsou said he expects over the next few months that the energy interests will begin heavily advertising to block the new rules.
“I speak today to urge you to resist and tell your friends to resist the onslaught of advertising that will be coming up over the next few months on this issue as they try and finalize this rule,” Tsou said.
Thursday night’s forum was co-sponsored by the Lower Merion Green Council and PennEnvironment and featured legislators, environmentalists and health experts.
Mary Pat Tanz, a respiratory therapist, spoke on the effects that smoke and pollution has on the population.
“One of the things I have come across over the years is in the summer time when the ozone is high and the smog alerts are out, when you go into work at 3 o’clock and you draw the short straw, you have the emergency room and you are going to be busy,” she said. “And you have to be on your game that day because people come in sick with COPD, emphysema, and children with asthma and they are sicker.”
Garber said across Pennsylvania 1.5 million people have asthma, including 260,000 in the Sixth Congressional District.
According to Garber, the new EPA rules will be published in the federal register and after that there will be a 60-day public-comment period: citizens can write into the EPA to add their comments. Through a time and place have not yet been set, there will also be a public meeting in Philadelphia to solicit input on the rule change.