Controlling Power Plant Emissions: Emissions Progress
Emissions of mercury to the air from anthropogenic (human-caused emissions) sources have fallen by more than 45% since passage of the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments. These amendments provided new authority to EPA to reduce emissions of mercury and other toxic pollutants to the air.
Source: EPA 1990, 1996 NTI and EPA 1999 NEI. Short tons per year. Adjusted for gold mines in 1990 and 1996.
*The 1990 and 1996 inventories did not include gold mining emissions data. The emissions shown here for gold mines in those years are assumed to be equal to emissions for those mines in 1999.
In 1990, more than two-thirds of U.S. anthropogenic mercury emissions came from three source categories: coal fired power plants, municipal waste combustion and medical waste incineration. Regulations that were issued in the 1990s to control mercury emissions burning waste require more than a 90% reduction in emissions from these facilities. In addition actions to limit the use of mercury, most notably Congressional action to limit the use of mercury in batteries and EPA regulatory limits on the use of mercury in paint, contributed to the reduction of mercury emissions from waste combustion during the 1990s by reducing the mercury content of waste.
More recent regulation, including regulations to limit mercury emissions from chlorine production facilities that use mercury cells and regulation of industrial boilers, will further reduce emissions of mercury in the next few years.
The Clean Air Mercury Rule, issued March 15, 2005, will reduce mercury emissions from coal-fired electric power plants.