Commentary: Clean air is worth the price

Just as turmoil in the Mideast drives up gasoline prices, and fears of a meltdown in Japan fuel doubts about nuclear power, the U.S. is jacking up the price of coal-fired electricity at home by regulating mercury, arsenic and other toxic pollutants from power plants?

In fact, the administration had no control over the timing of the proposed rule announced last week. The Environmental Protection Agency was under a court-imposed deadline of March 16.

And after 20 years of hemming and hawing, it's time to start controlling the 386,000 tons of toxins that rain down on this country each year from coal-fired power plants, the No. 1 source of air pollution.

It's past time, really.

A bipartisan majority of Congress in 1990 ordered the EPA to get to work on nationwide standards for toxic emissions from power plants. If people should be alarmed about anything, it's that it's taken so long and that the health of so many has suffered during the delay.

As the crisis at the Fukushima reactors reminds us, invisible substances in the air can do grave harm to human health and lasting damage to the environment.

In Kentucky, so much mercury has entered the aquatic food chain that every single lake and stream is under a mercury advisory for women and young children. Kentucky is always in the top 10 states for mercury pollution — with an estimated 5,930 pounds falling on the state in 2009.

To read the complete editorial, visit www.kentucky.com.