By Ayesha Rascoe

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Obama administration on Wednesday unveiled the first-ever standards to slash mercury emissions from coal-fired plants, a move aimed at protecting public health that critics say will kill jobs as plants shut down.

Facing intense opposition from industry groups and lawmakers from coal-intensive states, the Environmental Protection Agency said the benefits of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, or MATS, will greatly outweigh the costs.

(Reporting By Ayesha Rascoe)