Do you know where the air you breathe comes from? Next week, the Environmental Protection Agency moves to regulate dirty air across state lines.
The new limits on power plant emissions are a half-decade in the making. Thirty-one states from Florida to New York, Wisconsin to Texas would be subject to reducing certain chemicals spewed into the air. The agency argues it has to put these limits in place for states to achieve national clean air standards. After all, sulfur dioxide from a smokestack doesn’t stop at the state border.
Coal-burning power plants are the target of the new rules. The EPA won’t give them much time to comply. The rules start taking effect next year, forcing quick action from those utilities that have yet to clean up their act.
By the government’s estimates, the pollution-control equipment needed to meet the new limits will cost power plants almost $3 billion a year.
The EPA argues, however, that fewer asthma cases and lung problems will make up for the higher utility costs 100 times over.
The power industry counters that the new regulations would add $18 billion to their costs each year, leading to higher electricity prices and a loss of jobs.
Both sides may be guilty of economic hyperbole. We do know most Americans count on coal to power their homes and businesses. And while that coal comes from America, the pollution does, too.
Tom Hudson, anchor of “Nightly Business Report,” produced by NBR Worldwide and distributed nationally by PBS, can be reached at Twitter HudsonNBR.