Analysis: Mercury rule will save lives in Maine

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has completed an analysis showing that reducing emissions of mercury and other toxic substances would have enormous health benefits.

The power industry and several states had challenged the rules in federal court.

But the finding that the Mercury and Air Toxic Standards are essentially a net gain for the nation is especially good news in Maine, where Dylan Voorhees, Clean Energy Project director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine, says most of that pollution blows into the state from the Midwest.

“It’s good news for everybody that breaths air in Maine, that’s for sure, and also for folks who like to eat food, but particularly fish and other species that contain mercury, and its good for our wildlife,” he states.

Voorhees says loons are among the local wildlife species that should benefit from the standards.

The EPA estimates that, nationwide, the new standards would have about $90 billion a year in health benefits, preventing up to 11,000 premature deaths, 4,700 heart attacks and 130,000 asthma attacks annually.

Last June, without blocking the rules from going forward, the U.S. Supreme Court said the EPA had failed to properly consider how much their implementation would cost power plants.

According to Graham McCahan, an attorney with the Environmental Defense Fund, the analysis released Friday fulfills that requirement.

“It reaffirms their prior determination which was, indeed, this is a very cost effective way to very significantly reduce a whole host of very dangerous air pollutants,” he explains.

McCahan says power plants are responsible for half of all mercury emissions in the United States.

Photo via John Picken.

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