New regulations issued by the Obama administration will force the country's coal- and oil-fired power plants to reduce the emission of pollutants such as arsenic and mercury or shut down.
In a statement, the Environmental Protection Agency said the new standards "will protect millions of families and children from harmful and costly air pollution and provide the American people with health benefits that far outweigh the costs of compliance."
As The Wall Street Journal reports, the regulation was opposed by some power companies which said "it would require expensive retrofits at coal-fired power plants in an unrealistically short time frame."
Here's the AP with some of the details of the new rule, which at an estimated cost of $9.6 billion is one of "the most expensive in EPA's history":
"The long-overdue national standards for mercury and other toxic pollutants are the first to be applied to nation's oldest and dirtiest power plants.
"About half of the 1,300 coal- and oil-fired units nationwide still lack modern pollution controls, despite the Environmental Protection Agency in 1990 getting the authority from Congress to control toxic air pollution from power plant smokestacks. A decade later, in 2000, the agency concluded it was necessary to clamp down on the emissions to protect public health.
"Decades of litigation and changing political winds have allowed power plants to keep running without addressing their full environmental and public health costs."
The EPA says that plants have three years for compliance, but the EPA said it is also encouraging authorities to make a fourth year "broadly available."
The agency said it estimates the new standards "will prevent as many as 11,000 premature deaths and 4,700 heart attacks a year."