Coal Fired Emissions and Legislative Action in the United States

The use of coal has a long history of emitting a variety of pollutants into the atmosphere and has contributed to several known health episodes in the past. Regulations on coal usage date back to medieval times when nobility became inconvenienced, but major incidents in the 1940s and 1950s in the United States and England that had severe impacts on human health were the impetus for legislation in these two countries to protect the health and welfare of the general public. In the United States, the major development of legislative and regulatory acts occurred from 1955 to 1970, and by the mid-1970s the basis for national regulation of air pollution was well developed. The regulations are continually changing, as more information on the effect of emissions on health and the environment is obtained, new control technologies are developed, and society demands a safe living environment. The use of coal for power generation is a highly regulated industry with more regulations soon to be implemented. This chapter briefly discusses past health episodes, primarily in light of their role in the passage of regulations on the use of coal. The emphasis of this chapter is on federal legislation and regulatory trends in the United States. A history of legislative action in the United States as it pertains to coal-fired power plants is presented, and impending legislation regarding emissions not currently regulated is also discussed. The types and quantities of emissions, with an emphasis on coal-fired power plants, are presented, along with their trends over time as a consequence of legislative action. A brief discussion of emissions and legislation from other countries and how they compare to the United States is also provided.

Major Coal-Related Health Episodes

Air pollution is not a modern phenomenon, although legislative action to successfully regulate emissions and protect human health is. This section

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