WASHINGTON - March 19 - The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today finalized new, stepped up warnings about mercury contamination in fish, inexplicably while the Bush administration continued pushing for a mercury rule that would make it easier for polluters to avoid cleaning up mercury.
Earlier this week, EPA staffers also said they were told not to perform the usual rigorous scientific testing for the Bush administration's proposed mercury rule -- instead, language for the rule came straight from the polluting energy industry.
Meanwhile, today's action by the FDA and EPA expanded warnings about the number of fish species with unsafe levels of mercury and the list of people who are most at risk from mercury -- adding children, nursing mothers and women who may become pregnant.
"It's time for the Bush administration to enforce clean air laws that are on the books and require power plants to implement technology to limit this dangerous poison," said Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club. "The EPA is now ignoring science because the Bush administration's polluting campaign donors don't like what science has to say."
Longtime EPA staff charge the Bush administration has ordered them to scrap the usual scientific and economic studies. Instead, the EPA proposed a new mercury plan that copies language from a report written by West Associates, an industry organization representing 23 large Western utility companies. In March 2003, West Associates presented the EPA with recommendations about mercury regulations and described the results of an analysis of possible mercury emission reduction scenarios. This all ended up in the Bush administration's final proposal.
In 2001, the EPA estimated that a 90 percent reduction in mercury pollution from power plants by 2008 is achievable. But the Bush administration's current proposal allows far more mercury for decades longer than enforcement of the Clean Air Act would allow.
Mercury is a powerful toxin that causes learning and developmental disabilities in children and developing fetuses. Forty-five states and territories have warned the public to limit consumption of fish from mercury-contaminated lakes and rivers. Coal-fired power plants account for more than a third of mercury emissions and are responsible for "hot spot" areas where mercury concentrations are significantly higher.