Although it has been more than 20 years since the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments passed Congress, up until now, 21 Dec 2011, there have been no federal standards that require power plants to limit their emissions of toxic air pollutants like mercury, arsenic and metals. This despite the availability of proven control technologies. The Obama Administration has initiated long awaited life-saving mercury and air toxics standards where the preceding administration did not. In order not to disrupt the economy or prevent economic hardship on some companies, existing pollution sources generally will have up to 4 years comply with the new standards if they need it to.
At a press conference in Washington, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said the regulation was the Obama administration's "biggest clean-air action yet," trumping a landmark agreement to double fuel-economy standards for vehicles and another rule that will reduce emissions from power plants that foul the air in states downwind. According to EPA estimates, the new safeguards will prevent as many as 11,000 premature deaths and 4,700 heart attacks a year. The standards will also help America’s children grow up healthier – preventing 130,000 cases of childhood asthma symptoms and about 6,300 fewer cases of acute bronchitis among children each year.