PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — New federal rules on air pollution are being hailed as the most significant in 20 years.

As KDKA Investigator Andy Sheehan reports the impact may be great right here in Western Pennsylvania where air quality has become a major concern.

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For all of its environmental advances, the Pittsburgh region still suffers from poor air quality – consistently ranking in the top five for heavy particulates in the air. However, that may soon change.

The Environmental Protection Agency has announced new rules regarding emissions from coal-fired power plants, of which there are many in the region, including the Bruce Mansfield Plant in Shippingport, Beaver County.

Jamin Bogi, of GASP or the Group Against Smog and Pollution, calls the rules the most significant news for air quality in 20 years.

“The impact is – we’re going to see 90 percent reductions in mercury from cola-fired power plants. We’re going to see much less air toxins, heavy metal,” said Bogi.

The Sierra Club says Western Pennsylvania is home to three of the dirtiest power plants in the nation.

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It ranks Genon’s Shawville Power Plant in Clearfield County third dirtiest, followed by Eme’s Homer City Power Plant in Indiana County in seventh and FirstEnergy’s Bruce Mansfield Power Plant in ninth.

FirstEnergy’s Mark Durdin says: “We are in the process of reviewing the final EPA rules and how they will affect the coal-fired power plants in our fleet. The four such plants we operate in Pennsylvania already have extensive emission control technology. However, more will need to be done in order to meet the aggressive compliance timeframe that is included as part of the new standards.”

Others in the industry have complained that the EPA rules will mean the shuttering of some plants, the loss of jobs and rising energy costs.

But Bogi says those claims are overblown.

“Every time something comes down the pike these complaints comes from industry and they turn out to be false,” says Bogi.

Bogi also says there is another threat to coal and coal-fired power plants – the development of natural gas from formations like the c here in Western Pa. Bogi says the natural gas is plentiful with half the carbon emission of coal.

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