The landmark standards put in place by the EPA mean more than a thousand power plants nationwide will have to dramatically reduce emissions of mercury and other toxins like acid gas and cyanide. The tougher rules are the first of their kind since the Clean Air Act was passed back in 1990. Matthew Tejada is the executive director of Air Alliance Houston.
"This is some fundamental regulatory work that's happening right now and it's a strong rule. It's going to protect millions of people. It gets at power plants that have really been able to escape being touched by the Clean Air Act in so many ways through the decades. This really is a big day for the EPA and a big day for Americans who have suffered through this pollution."
Tejada says although power plants in the greater Houston area, including one in Fort Bend County, aren't emitting huge amounts of toxins, others are that affect the city's air.
"The Parish Power Plant has had to spend millions and millions of dollars over the past 10 and 15 years to come into compliance with other regulations and it's a much cleaner plant as a result of that. But there's a lot of other plants just upwind or just downwind of the Houston area that haven't had to do that and that pollution eventually will blow into the Houston region or it will blow into the Dallas-Fort Worth region and that's when it has its impact on health."
Power plants will have up to four years to comply with the new rules. The EPA says the regulations could prevent as many as 11,000 premature births and almost 5,000 heart attacks nationwide each year.