The federal government this week issued new proposals to regulate mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants. Environmentalists complained that the rules are a retreat from current guidelines for clean air, but utilities say they face huge costs to install new technology. Alliant Energy’s Lisha Coffey says the new federal rules are better than a patchwork of local standards. She says this rule cuts mercury emissions by nearly 70-percent, and says the power companies approves because what’s good for the environment is good for customers. Coffey says the new federal rules constitute a “cap and trade” approach to quotas on smokestack emissions. She says that gives the power companies more flexibility in dealing with pollution limits. Coffey says it’s similar to an acid-rain trading program in an earlier pollution law. Coffey says while the utilities won’t have a problem meeting the new mercury rule, they’ll have to change their thinking, from being just an energy company6 to being a steward of the environment. Coffey says when people in the surrounding communities are well and healthy, the companies do well. She says no single answer will please everyone, and in other parts of the country they may view standards differently but adds Alliant tries to keep in mind the people of communities they serve. Coffey says Iowa has “lots of” coal-fired power plants, but can’t put a number on them.
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