Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) has introduced a proposed rider to the 2012 federal transportation bill that would effectively kill off long-overdue limits on toxic pollution from Industrial Power Plants (boiler MACT). The Environmental Protection Agency has said these limits will save up to 8,100 lives every year once they take effect.
This amendment, officially known as the “EPA Regulatory Relief Act of 2011” was introduced last year but has failed to successfully attach itself to other bills, most recently the Payroll Tax Cut bill. On Thursday March 1, the amendment process for the Senate’s two-year transportation begins.
Mainers Suffer from Unregulated Industrial Power Plants
Maine has 15 industrial power plants that would need to control their pollution under the new limits. These facilities are currently emitting hundreds of pound a year of mercury, lead, chromium, hydrochloric acid pollution and fine particulate pollution. The Westbrook Mill near Portland, for example, operates a power plant that emits more than 150 pounds of lead, more than 100 pounds of chromium, and more than 325,000 pounds of fine particulate matter every year. The power plant at Red Shield Environmental, near Bangor, emits more than 300 pounds of lead, more than 16,000 pounds of hydrochloric acid, and almost 75,000 pounds of fine particulate matter.
“Many people don’t know that major industrial operations often have their own personal power plants, which have not been subject to EPA clean air standards,” said Earthjustice staff attorney Jim Pew. “People who live near industrial power plants pay a disproportionate cost in increased cancer risk, heart attacks, asthma and other respiratory illness. It’s disheartening to see Senator Collins, who has otherwise been a leader on environmental issues, sponsor legislation that would carve out a loophole for toxic pollution and harm the health of her own constituents.”
Though they are usually smaller than power plants that sell electricity to the public, industrial power plants released millions of pounds of toxic air pollutants like mercury, lead, benzene and acid gases in 2010 alone. Earthjustice has worked for more than a decade to reduce health threats from pollution caused by industrial power plants—also known as industrial boilers.
In February 2011, under a court-ordered deadline, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued Clean Air Act emission standards for industrial power plants. In December 2011, EPA issue a revised proposal and plans to finalize an updated standard by mid-2012. These standards (often referred to as the "Boiler MACT" rule) will bring IPPs into Clean Air Act compliance like any other power plant, saving thousands of lives each year and preventing widespread sickness, suffering and premature death, especially in communities that need the help most.