WASHINGTON - April 1 - The Sierra Club today thanked a bipartisan coalition of Senators for urging the Bush administration to protect communities from mercury pollution. The Bush administration's proposal falls far short of what the law requires and leaves communities at risk for mercury pollution.
In the process of creating the proposal, longtime EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) staff charge the Bush administration ordered them to scrap the usual scientific and economic studies when drafting the mercury plan. 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 response to the Bush administration's bad mercury proposal, a bipartisan group of Senators sent a letter to Mike Leavitt, EPA's administrator, urging him to reduce mercury pollution coming from power plants with technology that is available and affordable.
Signers include: Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Mark Pryor (D-AR), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Christopher Dodd (D-CT), Joseph I. Lieberman (D-CT), Joseph R. Biden, Jr. (D-DE), Thomas Carper (D-DE), Bob Graham (D-FL), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Daniel Akaka (D-HI), Daniel Inouye (D-HI), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Richard Durbin (R-IL), Edward Kennedy (D-MA), John Kerry (D-MA), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Paul Sarbanes (D-MD), Susan Collins (R-ME), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Carl Levin (D-MI), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Mark Dayton (D-MN), John Edwards (D-NC), Judd Gregg (R-NH), John Sununu (R-NH), Jon Corzine (D-NJ) Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Harry Reid (D-NV), Hillary Clinton (D-NY), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Lincoln Chafee (R-RI), Jack Reed (D-RI), Ernest Hollings (D-SC), Thomas Daschle (D-SD), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), James Jeffords (I-VT), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Russ Feingold (D-WI), Herbert Kohl (D-WI), and John Rockefeller (D-WV).
Below is the text of the letter:
The Honorable Michael O. Leavitt, Administrator
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20460
Dear Administrator Leavitt:
We are writing to urge you to take prompt and effective action to clean up mercury pollution from power plants. The Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) current proposals on mercury fall far short of what the law requires, and they fail to protect the health of our children and our environment. We ask you to carry out the requirements of the Clean Air Act to protect our nation from toxic mercury contamination.
On January 30, 2003, EPA proposed two alternative rules to address mercury emissions. Unfortunately, both of these proposals fail to meet the Clean Air Act directives under section 112 (d) for cleaning up mercury. EPA's proposals permit far more mercury pollution, and for years longer, than the Clean Air Act allows.
The toxicity of mercury has been proven time and again by scientists around the world. The Agency's own scientists just released a study finding that approximately 630,000 infants were born in the United States in the 12-month period, 1999-2000, with blood mercury levels higher than what is considered safe. This is a doubling of previous estimates. Mercury emissions have also contaminated ten million acres of lakes and 400,000 miles of streams, and have triggered advisories warning America's 41 million recreational fishermen that the fish they catch may not be safe to eat. Furthermore, evidence continues to mount that mercury causes reproductive problems in wildfowl populations, such as loon and mallard ducks. Other fish-eating wildlife populations are at risk as well.
We can address this public health and environmental problem. According to many states, industry experts, and past EPA analyses, the technology to dramatically clean up these plants is available and affordable. We are concerned that EPA did not fully analyze the range of controls recommended by state, utility, and environmental and public health members of EPA's advisory group on this rule.
The newest scientific studies show that controlling mercury emissions works. As we saw in Florida, sharp reductions in mercury pollution are mirrored by reductions in nearby fish populations. A study in northern Wisconsin indicated that reductions in the input of mercury from air corresponded with marked reductions in mercury fish tissue levels in the 1990s.
As the Administrator of the EPA, you have the legal authority and the responsibility to address mercury emissions and protect public health. We do not believe that EPA's current proposals are sufficient or defensible. We urge you to withdraw the entire proposed rule package and re-propose a rule for adequate public comment that meets the terms of the 1998 settlement agreement and is promulgated by the December 15, 2004 deadline.
We look forward to working with you to develop appropriate mercury standards that reduce mercury emissions in the shortest time possible to protect public health and the environment.