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12:54 pm
Thu June 21, 2012

US Senate upholds limits on power plant air pollution

Originally published on Wed June 20, 2012 5:57 pm

Updated at 5:50 p.m. to add comments from Senator Roy Blunt.

The U.S. Senate has rejected a bill that would have done away with new federal limits on mercury and other toxic air pollutants from power plants.

The resolution introduced by Republican Senator James Inhofe would have eliminated the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards finalized by the Environmental Protection Agency in December.

Missouri’s senators were divided on the issue.

Republican Senator Roy Blunt voted to eliminate the EPA regulation, calling it "an attack on coal and coal-based utilities" that would Missourians would end up paying for.

“A 23 percent increase on your utility bill, by 2016," Blunt said. "The estimates are that by 2020 we’ll lose 76,000 jobs because of that increase in utility rates.”

Senator Claire McCaskill voted to keep the EPA pollution standards in place. But the Democratic senator is working with colleagues from both sides of the isle on what she calls a compromise proposal that would give power companies more time to comply with the new limits.

McCaskill says when it comes to regulations she has always tried to find a middle ground.

“I think there are some rules that are very important. I want my children and my grandchildren to know that the water they drink is safe, I want my children and grandchildren to know that the products they consume are safe, the drugs they consume are safe,” McCaskill said. “But there are some regulations that I think have gone too far.”

As written, the EPA air pollution limits would go into effect in three years, with an option for a one-year delay. The proposal McCaskill is working on would extend the deadline, giving power plants six years to reduce their emissions.

Missouri gets about 80 percent of its electricity from coal.

Follow Véronique LaCapra on Twitter: @KWMUscience

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