WASHINGTON - January 30 - Todays proposal by EPA to forego serious action on curbing mercury emissions from power plants marks a radical departure from the steady forward progress that America has been making toward protecting women and children by reducing this toxic chemical in our food supply.
The Bush administration is proposing to allow the single largest unregulated source of mercury to continue emitting high levels for at least the next decade, leaving our children exposed to risks of developing problems with walking, talking, and even learning from mercury pollution.
The Administration should call this the Leave Our Children Behind rule, because the inevitable consequence will be more developmental problems for our children from the accumulation of mercury in our environment.
In 2000, the EPA determined that due to the serious health threat posed by mercury, it should regulate mercury from power plants. In 2001, EPA estimated that under the Clean Air Act, available technologies could reduce 90 percent of mercury from power plants, bringing mercury emissions down to roughly 5 tons per year by 2008.
Todays proposal departs dramatically from this course, and sets a new course favoring the polluters. EPAs proposal weakens mercury protections by no longer considering mercury a hazardous pollutant, despite growing evidence to the contrary. Further, EPAs proposal allows some power plants to avoid reducing mercury emissions, likely creating toxic mercury hotspots. In the end, all of EPAs proposals allow power plants to emit six to seven times more mercury pollution into our airways for a decade longer compared to EPAs 2001 determination.
Today marks the beginning of a sixty-day public comment period, during which EPA will host three hearings and the public can make its voice heard. EPA should extend the public comment period and hold more public hearings so that people in every region affected by this health threat have an opportunity to make their concerns known. EPA should also withdraw its illegal proposal to regulate mercury under the less-stringent program that is only meant to be used for non-hazardous pollutants. Finally, EPA should implement the law, and require the tightest mercury controls technologically possible by 2008.