Obama praises EPA mercury rule, calls for steps to ensure grid reliability

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While noting that his administration has said the rules will not cause power outages, Obama called on EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to “address any concerns with respect to electric reliability.”

Obama instructed Jackson to work with states to make sure power plant operators have enough time to comply with the rules.

Under the regulations, operators have three years to comply with the standards, with the option of a fourth year. EPA also said Wednesday that operators could be granted a fifth year to comply if reliability issues arise, but added that “there will be few, if any, situations in which this pathway will be needed.”

Obama also called on Jackson to “[p]romote early, coordinated and orderly planning and execution” of the regulations. And he pressed her to keep stakeholders informed if additional compliance time is necessary in the event that an electric reliability issue arises.

Republicans and industry opponents of the mercury regulations have launched a massive lobbying campaign against the standards in recent months, arguing the rules will harm the economy, force the closure of coal-fired power plants and threaten the reliability of the country’s power grid.

But the Obama administration has pushed back in recent months on allegations that the rules will cause power outages. The Energy Department issued a report earlier this month that said the regulations will not threaten the reliability of the country’s electric grid. The EPA has come to the same conclusion.

“The president wanted the American people to know that there are options available within the Clean Air Act to make sure that the lights stay on,” Jackson said Wednesday after unveiling the standards.

The regulations are a victory for environmental groups, which are still recovering from the bitter disappointment of the White House’s decision to scuttle much-anticipated smog regulations.

EPA said Wednesday that the regulations — which require coal- and oil-fired power plants to install technology to reduce harmful air pollution — will offer massive public health benefits at limited cost to industry.

The agency estimates that the standards will prevent 11,000 premature deaths, 4,700 heart attacks and 130,000 cases of childhood asthma per year.

Read more about the standards here.