WASHINGTON — The Environmental Protection Agency will put controls on the emissions of hazardous pollutants such as mercury from coal-fired power plants for the first time by November 2011, according to an agreement announced Friday to settle a lawsuit against the agency.
Many other polluters were forced to reduce emissions of toxic material such as mercury, arsenic and lead after the Clean Air Act was strengthened in 1990. Power plants, the largest source of mercury pollution, aren't subject to nationwide rules.
In February 2008, a federal appeals court ordered the EPA to regulate toxic air pollutants from power plants. Then the American Nurses Association and environmental groups sued to compel the EPA to issue the regulations.
The tougher rules will clean up more than just heavy metals because some kinds of controls also remove other pollutants, such as soot.
Mercury enters the food chain and ends up in fish. Children, including those exposed to mercury before birth, are especially at risk of developmental and learning disabilities.