50,000 Demand Protection From Mercury Pollution

by Robert Gardner

August 3, 2011

Greenpeace Senior Legislative Representative Kyle Ash delivers comments to the EPA

Today, Greenpeace delivered 50,000 petitions to the EPA in support of strong federal standards restricting mercury and hazardous air pollutants from coal plants. While industry and politician’s have worked against life saving standards, today, we are sending a strong message to the EPA that our members want common sense safeguards on heavy metals, toxic gases, and other dangerous pollutants.

Mercury is a killer – absent a strong rule limiting exposure to mercury, the EPA will be in violation of its distinct duty to ensure “all Americans are protected from significant risks to human health and the environment where they live, learn and work.” That’s why we anticipate the EPA’s final rule to have as short of a compliance schedule as possible and enforceable emissions limitations to stop this killer in its tracks.

After many months of work collecting signatures, testifying at hearings, and rallying with our coalition partners, we’ve been able to see through the haze of misinformation. This rule is coming down in November. Any delay means more lives lost. That is unacceptable.

So that everybody knows, here is exactly what will this rule do:

This rule will save lives. Mercury exposure is serious problem for the lungs, brain, heart, stomach, kidneys, and the immune system. According to EPA, the rule will prevent 17,000 premature deaths, 11,000 heart attacks, and 120,000 cases of childhood asthma symptoms each year. Also, the rule will prevent 11,000 cases of acute bronchitis among children yearly. Because of ‘bioaccumulation‘ (mercury collects over time in organisms’ bodies, including human bodies) and ‘biomagnification‘ (concentration increases as animals eat other animals) the only safe level of mercury exposure is zero.

This rule will protect the environment. In 2008, nearly half of all U.S. river-miles and lake-acres were under water contamination advisories. The vast majority of this contamination was due to mercury, including 100% of the Great Lakes. While only 17 states have established mercury emissions limits on coal plants, the states with the largest volume of mercury emissions do not have emissions limits. Over time, just one gram of mercury per year, can contaminate a 20-acre lake. I prefer my recreation without neurotoxins, thank you very much.

This rule will create jobs. There are readily available technologies designed to control for these emissions. Manufacturing, installing and maintaining those technologies creates jobs. EPA estimates that this rule will lead to 31,000 short-term construction jobs and 9,000 long-term utility jobs.

This rule will enable the energy revolution. By forcing old and dirty coal plants to clean up or shut down, this rule will make coal-fired utilities pay for their pollution. Otherwise, by shutting down, this gives renewable energy generation ‘space’ on the energy grid to provide us with clean energy.

By letting the EPA do its job, communities across the county that are working to shut down dirty coal plants will have an easier time ensuring their communities health and environmental sanctity. But just in case you are wondering how important this rule is, see this video from the Chicago mercury hearing below:

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