07/07/2011 03:25 pm ET Updated Sep 06, 2011

EPA Unveils New Standards For Coal-Fired Power Plants

WASHINGTON -- The Environmental Protection Agency announced new rules Thursday for coal-fired power plants to help curb the air pollution that has marked the eastern United States for years.

The new regulations will affect power plants in 28 states and are scheduled to go into effect in 2012. They will cut millions of tons of soot and smog emissions from power plants at a cost of less than $1 billion per year to utility companies.

E.P.A. administrator Lisa Jackson said the new regulations, known as the Cross State Air Pollution Rule, will improve air quality for 240 million Americans, preventing a projected 30 thousand premature deaths and up to 15 thousand nonfatal heart attacks, as well as hundreds of thousands of cases of asthma and other respiratory ailments.

"As a mother of a son with asthma, I know that these numbers and the fight we wage for clean air are not just abstract concepts," Jackson told reporters on a conference call Thursday. "Behind these numbers are people's lives and livelihoods. We all know that pollution generated in one state or one community does not stop at the border or the city lines. Just because wind and weather will carry air pollution away from its source at a local power plant doesn't mean that pollution is no longer that plant's responsibility."

The new regulations, which draw heavily on Bush-era rules thrown out by the federal courts in 2008, will cost utility companies an estimated $2.4 billion in pollution-related upgrades. The industry, along with many Republican lawmakers, isn't happy about it.

"The EPA is ignoring the cumulative economic damage new regulations will cause," Steve Miller, president of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, said in a statement. "America's coal-fueled electric industry has been doing its part for the environment and the economy, but our industry needs adequate time to install clean coal technologies to comply with new regulations. Unfortunately, EPA doesn't seem to care."

Agency officials insist the benefits are well worth the price.

"By reducing this ozone and particle pollution which are linked to costly and life threatening problems such as asthma, heart attacks and premature deaths, we anticipate up to $280 billion in annual benefits," said Jackson. "Those health and environmental benefits far outweigh the cost of the rule, which is estimated at about $800 million in 2014."

See a full breakdown of projected health benefits below:

Jordan Howard contributed to this report.