The head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has unveiled long-awaited rules for the nation’s 1,400 coal- and oil-fired power plants that will require much tougher pollution control equipment to reduce emissions of mercury, acid gases, and particulate matter. At a press conference in Washington, D.C., EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson announced the new rules, which the agency says will annually prevent up to 17,000 premature deaths, 11,000 heart attacks, and 120,000 asthma attacks. The EPA also maintains that the new rules will return financial and health benefits many times their $11 billion annual cost, including the creation of 9,000 new jobs as coal-fired power plants install pollution-scrubbing systems or build cleaner natural gas plants. Power generators will have several years to install the new pollution control equipment, which the EPA says will slash mercury emissions by 90 percent. But some utilities and Republican members of Congress have warned that the new rules will place an onerous burden on power producers, leading to the shutdown of some power plants, a loss of jobs, and possible interruptions in power supplies.