Trout Unlimited today supported the Environmental Protection Agency’s court-ordered final rule that requires coal- and oil-fired power plants to reduce mercury and other toxic emissions into the air.
Emissions from fossil fuel-fired power plants are blamed for “acid rain,” which can eventually make rivers and streams uninhabitable to native fish and to other organisms that depend on clean water for survival. Additionally, mercury from power-plant emissions can build up in fish, making them unsafe to eat.
“This rule makes good sense and should result in significant reduction of mercury and other acid rain-producing toxins into the air,” said Steve Moyer, TU’s vice president of government affairs. “The EPA, in response to a court order to enforce the Clean Air Act and consider emissions technology as a way to reduce toxins in the country’s air and water, has offered a reasonable road map for industry to follow in order to meet these requirements.”
The rule gives the power generation industry three years to install emissions-reduction technology in power plants, with the option of applying for a fourth year if the technology cannot be installed on time. A number of energy companies have already taken significant steps to prepare for the new regulations.
“Since 1959, TU volunteers and staff have worked to protect and restore trout watersheds throughout the nation, and we’ve come to realize that fish—trout in particular—are barometers for both air and water quality,” Moyer said. “Along the Eastern Seaboard, we’ve had to react to pollutants in the air that eventually find their way into the water. For instance, eastern brook trout in some Appalachian mountain watersheds are particularly susceptible to pollution that alters the natural chemical balance in their native streams. In order to keep some populations from winking out altogether, we’ve had to resort to unusual tactics to keep these fish alive, including adding lime to some streams to restore the water’s chemical equilibrium.”
TU volunteers in Virginia and other eastern states have worked with researchers to document the fish and wildlife habitat destroying affects of acid rain. These and other studies have compelled state and federal agencies to require cleaner emissions from power plants. In the Northeast, lakes and streams have made some progress in recovering from the impacts of acid rain following the enactment of the 1990 Clean Air Act amendments, but in the southeast, where brook trout are relegated to high-elevation streams, some waters remain persistently acidic. This rule will require that all existing power plants meet more stringent mercury emissions rules, and that new power plants be required to meet more stringent emissions standards regarding mercury and other pollutants.
“This is a welcome move that will ensure, over time, that brook trout populations will have the opportunity to recover naturally,” Moyer said. “We congratulate the EPA on this measured approach and look forward to experiencing the positive effects this rule will have on our air, our water and, of course, our fish.”