Toxic emissions targeted

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Toxic emissions targeted

Columbus Dispatch – WASHINGTON — The Obama administration yesterday proposed tough rules that would sharply restrict emissions of mercury and other toxic pollutants from the boilers that provide power for many Ohio factories and universities.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's proposed action would reduce mercury emissions by more than 50 percent from tens of thousands of industrial boilers across the country. Environmentalists cheered the move.

The new rules, if put into effect, will have a major impact on virtually every part of the United States, particularly the industrial Midwest. Industrial boilers are second only to coal-fired utility plants in emissions of mercury, which can cause damage to the brains and nervous systems of children.

Jack Shaner of the Ohio Environmental Council called the proposed rules "long overdue, especially in a highly industrialized state like Ohio. Thousands of people live in the shadow of industrial smokestacks, and those folks deserve more protection."

Republican Sen. George V. Voinovich and Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown had urged EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson in March to adopt less-stringent rules, warning that tougher restrictions could impose higher costs on many Ohio companies and universities, and cost jobs.

Jennifer Scoggins, a Voinovich spokeswoman, said that while Voinovich was still reviewing the proposed regulations, "It appears the standards now under consideration lack sufficient flexibility to reduce emissions at a reasonable cost."

Meghan Dubyak, a Brown spokeswoman, said that while Brown "supports efforts to improve air quality in Ohio and across the nation," he "will continue to work with EPA to ensure that the final rule reflects the health and economic needs of Ohioans."

Many factories, universities, hotels, shopping malls and commercial buildings produce their own electricity and heat from their own boilers, many of which burn natural gas, coal and oil.

In addition, the proposed rules would require steep reductions in toxic emissions from incinerators that burn solid waste at commercial and industrial sites.

Heidi Griesmer, spokeswoman for the Ohio EPA's air division, said the state has hundreds of boilers that provide power for hospitals, schools and factories.

The federal EPA has said it would allow 45 days for public reaction, including hearings, which would let U.S. companies object. The EPA hopes the proposed regulations will go into effect by the end of the year.

Representatives of major industries in Ohio were scrambling yesterday to gauge the impact of the proposed rules. Ryan Augsburger, managing director of public policy purposes for the Ohio Manufacturers' Association, said state industries "will be reviewing the new proposal to see if it imposes unnecessarily burdensome costs on industry."

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