Industry says EPA plan to soften pollution rules is insufficient

| Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2012, 8:14 p.m.

WASHINGTON — In response to industry complaints, the Environmental Protection Agency has proposed softening its rule to cut mercury and other pollution from new coal-fired power plants.

An industry trade group says the changes, which include a slightly higher level of allowable mercury emissions, don't go far enough to ensure coal remains an alternative to natural gas. The EPA released its revised rule Nov. 16.

“I'm not sure it's sufficient to fix the problem, even for new sources,” said Scott Segal, director of the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council, a utility group that includes Atlanta-based Southern Co.

While Segal said utilities were reviewing the proposal, he said the revisions would still constrain a utility's ability to build a new coal plant.

EPA's mercury rule is one of several environmental regulations Republicans in Congress and industry lobbyists have argued will raise electricity costs and hurt the economy. The Obama administration has said the health benefits outweigh the costs.

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