Regulatory Analysis: Mercury and Air Toxics Standards

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One of the most recent and controversial regulations passed by the current administration is the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) signed on December 16, 2011. “MATS will reduce emissions of heavy metals, including mercury (Hg), arsenic (As), chromium (Cr), and nickel (Ni); and acid gases, including hydrochloric acid (HCl) and hydrofluoric acid (HF). These toxic air pollutants, also known as hazardous air pollutants or air toxics, are known or suspected of causing cancer and other serious health effects.”4 United States Power Plants are some of the leading contributors of the above mentioned pollutants. “Until now there have been no federal standards that require power plants to limit their emissions of toxic air pollutants like mercury, arsenic and metals - despite the availability of proven control technologies, and the more than 20 years since the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments passed.”3 Though coal is comparatively cost effective to other forms of electricity and is readily available in various parts of the country there are some drawbacks. Burning fossil fuels such as coal emits byproducts that are harmful to the environment. Sulfur dioxide causes acid rain that can damage nature and buildings. Carbon dioxide is thought to be the leading cause of global warming by some. Mercury can lead to unsafe water sources and make wildlife in those sources unsafe to eat.2 The regulation was said to be put into place for the general well-being of the public as a general societal problem that people are suffering health problems and even death from greenhouse gases. If the government does not step in and regulate the coal and oil fueled power plants they will not lessen their pollutant emissions because doing so will cost capital and will in turn increase their production costs and ultimately the cost for consumers. Some critics of MATS say it is a regulation to further green energy and wage a war on coal. This regulation puts a significant competitive...
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