In a November letter addressing the anticipated proposal, the Building and Construction Trades Department said the “installation of equipment to control sulfur dioxide, nitric oxide, mercury and other hazardous air pollutants requires a wide range of . . . pipefitters, boilermakers, electricians, ironworkers . . . and laborers.”
Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA is required to identify industrial sources for 187 listed toxic air pollutants — including mercury, arsenic, chromium, nickel, hydrogen chloride and hydrogen fluoride — and to take steps to reduce them.
Industry representatives have complained that the agency is moving too fast too soon.
Jackson said the plan would give the industry up to four years to install scrubbers and other clean-air technology.
The proposal would replace the Clean Air Mercury Rule, a program from the George W. Bush administration that requires power plants to cut their mercury emissions by 70 percent.
In 2008, a federal court vacated that rule because it did not control other metals, such chromium dioxins that cause cancer.
The proposal will be open to public comment for 60 days after it is published in the Federal Register and will undergo public hearings in Atlanta, Chicago and Philadelphia. It is not expected to be final until late this year or early 2012.
Michael J. Bradley, executive director of the Clean Energy Group, said the EPA went out of its way to work with industry. “I’ve been in the business over 25 years, and I haven’t seen the EPA reach out like they have with this rule,” he said.
Charles D. Connor, chief executive of the American Lung Association, said the message of the new regulation is “start now, don’t wait” longer to control power plant emissions.
Jonathan Truwit, a doctor at the University of Virginia Hospital, described treating people with asthma and other lung diseases caused by industrial pollution.
“When I see young patients in the ICU, they’re gasping for air,” he said. “As a care doctor, I might be the last step. We can usually save the patient, but not always. It’s a tragedy when a person dies from asthma.”