Denver Federal environmental regulators Wednesday proposed the nation’s first limit on mercury, arsenic, acid gas and other toxic air pollution emitted from coal-fired power plants.
The limit could cut 91 percent of pollution, including 45 tons of mercury each year, wafting from power plants nationwide.
In Colorado, federal data indicate power plants spew 943 pounds of toxic pollutants per year.
Technology companies including Colorado-based ADA Environmental Solutions in Littleton, which makes monitoring equipment and carbon-cleanup systems, are mobilizing to help energy producers comply.
“We see this as a way of improving the environment and making a lot of money,” ADA chief executive Michael Durham said.
A 2009 court order spurred the Environmental Protection Agency to act.
The proposed limit must be finalized by mid-November after a public comment period.
“This means there will be far fewer developmental disabilities. We hope it will mean fewer fish advisories for lakes and streams around the country. It means thousands and thousands fewer premature deaths,” EPA regional administrator Jim Martin said.
The EPA has set limits on air pollution from incinerators, medical waste and cement plants under the Clean Air Act. But it has taken 20 years to set standards aimed at reducing toxic industrial pollution. Federal officials estimate compliance will cost energy companies about $11 billion but that health benefits by 2016 will be worth $140 billion.
Some of the 14 coal-fired plants in Colorado have installed systems for reducing pollution. Some are planning to shift toward cleaner sources of energy.
About half in Colorado, including power plants in Hayden, Craig and Colorado Springs, and 44 percent nationwide, likely would need to make upgrades to comply with the standards, according to EPA officials.
Xcel Energy, which operates coal-fired plants in Colorado, couldn’t determine whether meeting the EPA limit is likely to raise rates for customers, spokeswoman Michelle Aguayo said.