Greenpeace International Executive Director Kumi Naidoo and local activists inspect the Riverbend coal plant in North Carolina. The plant, owned by Duke Energy, has emitted more than a thousand pounds of mercury pollution over the last ten years.

Update: Duke Energy distances itself from ERCC's attacks on the Mercury Rule

After receiving our letter, a spokesperson for Duke had a chance to provide some insight to a reporter at the Charlotte Business Journal about where the company stands on coal front group ERCC's attacks on the Mercury Rule:

Williams says Duke is a member of the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council, which has opposed the EPA’s proposal. “But, as with many organizations we are affiliated with, we don’t agree with them on every issue.”

Duke's efforts to distance itself from the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council's attacks on the Mercury Rule show that the ERCC's efforts to weaken and delay this important public health safeguard are not even supported by its own member companies. Scott Segal and the other Bracewell & Giuliani lobbyists who run this coal industry front group should stop misleading policymakers about whose interests they represent.

Original Post:

In the next couple weeks, the Environmental Protection Agency is expected to finally release safeguards to protect Americans from mercury pollution and other toxins emitted by coal fired power plants, and a strong rule could do a lot to protect communities from these poisons. Unfortunately, lobbyists for a few of the most polluting companies are trying to sabotage the rule before it's out - and they're hiding behind a coal industry front group called the "Electric Reliability Coordinating Council." We need to know who is behind these attacks, so today Greenpeace is sending a letter to Jim Rogers, the CEO Duke Energy, to see if his company supports ERCC's attacks on these much needed protections against mercury pollution. Here's the text of the letter:

 


 

Dear Mr. Rogers,

As you know, the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) has recently announced a suite of much needed air quality rules. Among them are the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (“CSAPR”), and the EGU MACT, or “Mercury Rule.” A chorus of clean air advocates from across America has spoken in support of the Mercury Rule, with over 600,000 comments streaming into the EPA demanding protection from mercury pollution.

You have made it clear that Duke is positioned to meet EPA’s updated mercury standards, with plans to retire non-compliant facilities or install a variety of pollution controls.

Given your stated preparedness for the rule, we are puzzled by Duke Energy’s potential affiliation with the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council, (“ERCC”). As you may know, the ERCC is aggressively seeking to delay and weaken much-needed federal mercury protections. Although the ERCC has refused to name its full membership, on June 7th of this year, ERCC Director and Bracewell & Giuliani lobbyist Scott Segal named both Duke and Progress Energy as member companies. On November 14, 2011, Mr. Segal sent a letter requesting a meeting with Cass Sunstein, the head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, seeking to delay and weaken the Mercury Rule as that office undertakes its cost-benefit analysis. 

According to a recent Bloomberg article coal and energy industry lobbyists held just such a meeting with White House officials on Tuesday, November 29, 2011.

Given the importance of protecting Americans from the dangers of mercury pollution, it is critical that policymakers and impacted communities know who is behind ERCC’s attacks on the Mercury Rule. What is Duke Energy’s affiliation with the ERCC? Does Duke Energy support the ERCC’s attacks on the Mercury Rule and other public health safeguards? 

Surely you know the importance of protecting communities from the impacts of mercury in their food chain. At least 1 in 12 American women of childbearing age have enough mercury in their bodies to put their baby at risk of mercury poisoning, which causes brain damage, learning disabilities, and birth defects. This rule will save lives, protect the environment, and create much-needed jobs for our economy. 

In 2010 alone, Duke Energy’s coal-fired power plants emitted 1,444 pounds of mercury into the environment. It’s long past time for the EPA to protect citizens from mercury pollution of coal-fired power plants. 

We look forward to your response.

Signed,

Gabe Wisniewski

Coal Campaign Director, Greenpeace USA