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E-M:/ FW: air-mail: Mercury in Dallas Morning News

Enviro-Mich message from "Karen D. Kendrick-Hands" <kdkhands@voyager.net>

Mercury deposition from utilities is an even more urgent problem in the Great Lakes Basin, We have lots of old coal burners. Consumers Energy uses coal for 55% of its electricity,; Detroit Edison is 85% coal based. It is imperative, especially with deregulation looming on the horizon that we make sure there are data reporting and collecting mechanisms as the state PSCs and FERC retreat from their roles of making production rates and f uel usage public. Take time to let OMB know that the public right to know is paramount - and essential to informed consumer decisions once competition is in place. Mercury pollution is a major externalized cost of burning coal that disclosure data will help to internalize 

Karen D. Kendrick-Hands
Renaissance Woman
1067 Devonshire Road 
Grosse Pointe Park, MI  48230
313.885.7883 (fax)

From:  Felice Stadler [SMTP:FStadler@nrdc.org]
Sent:  Tuesday, August 11, 1998 11:52 AM
To:  air-mail@igc.apc.org
Subject:  air-mail: Mercury in Dallas Morning News

Kudos to Pete Altman with the SEED Coalition for getting press on the utilities' attempts to block EPA's proposal to require power plants to monitor for mercury (see below).
EPA is sending to OMB their revised proposal (called an Information Collection Request) within the next few weeks.  OMB has the authority to review proposals to make sure they don't burden the industry...and are cleary being lobbied by the utility industry.
Send letters supporting EPA's utility mercury monitoring proposal to:
Jacob Lew, Director
Office of Management and Budget
725 17th Street, NW
Washington, DC  20503
attn:	docket no. A-92-55
____________________Forward Header_____________________
Subject:	Mercury in Dallas Morning News
Author:	Altman <altman@io.com>
Date:	8/10/98 5:49 AM

Plan would make utilities check mercury levels in fuels 
Companies call federal proposal expensive, repetitive 

By Randy Lee Loftis / The Dallas Morning News 

Greg Gates hopes the fish in his favorite Texas lakes will still be safe to eat when today's children are grown.
"I don't want them saying, 'Why didn't you take care of the mercury in the lakes?' " said Mr. Gates, a Fort Worth-based fishing guide on North Texas waters. "If we don't preserve it, we're not going to have it."
Mr. Gates joined environmentalists this week to boost a federal plan to require power plants to monitor their fuels and air emissions for mercury, a toxic metal that has already contaminated dozens of Texas lakes.
Electric companies are pressing the Environmental Protection Agency to drop the plan, which they say is too expensive. They say the government has all the industrywide information it needs without the detailed reports it wants from each of 421 plants nationwide.
At stake, those involved say, are the safety of Texas waters, the expenses of some of the nation's biggest companies and the public's right to know how much of the toxic element is getting into air, water and the aquatic food chain.
"The [EPA] proposal is being met with a tremendous amount of opposition," said Peter Altman, executive director of the Austin-based Sustainable Energy and Economic Development Coalition, a group that pushes for utilities reform. "This is an issue on which environmental leaders and anglers are uniting."
One of the opponents is Dallas-based TU Electric, Texas' biggest utility.  Company spokeswoman Gyna Bivens said TU Electric is against the proposed EPA rule but doesn't oppose gathering more information. "We do support wholeheartedly the notion of more EPA research," she said.
Mercury is a powerful poison affecting the central nervous systems of people and wildlife. It has many sources, including natural ones, and is carried around the world by high-altitude winds - making it hard to track the local impact of any one source.
It is also in the coal that many power plants burn and the waste fed into city trash incinerators and medical waste incinerators.
>From there it gets into the atmosphere and settles onto land and water. 
Runoff eventually carries mercury into lakes, where chemical changes turn it into an extremely toxic form called methyl mercury.
Methyl mercury builds up in the tissues of fish, becoming more concentrated as it moves up the food chain. When a bigger fish eats smaller contaminated fish, the bigger fish winds up with a much more toxic load of mercury.
At the top of the food chain, mercury can be hundreds of thousands of times more concentrated than the original pollution, making the fish unsafe for people to eat.
The Texas Health Department has issued warnings for six Texas water bodies - Upper Lavaca Bay in South Texas and B.A. Steinhagen Reservoir, Sam Rayburn Reservoir, Big Cypress Creek, Toledo Bend Reservoir and Caddo Lake in East Texas - advising people not to eat the fish because of high mercury concentrations.
Nearly two dozen other lakes, including Joe Pool Lake in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, also have elevated mercury levels but have had no warnings issued, according to the SEED Coalition's review of tests by state agencies.
Texas has no organized program for monitoring its waters for mercury contamination.
It takes just 1 gram of mercury - about one-third the amount in a home-use thermometer - to contaminate a 20-acre lake, said Dr. Neil Carman, a chemist and clean-air program director for the Texas chapter of the Sierra Club.
"It's actually more dangerous, more toxic than lead," Dr. Carman said.
People at greatest risk, the EPA says, are those who eat large amounts of fish much of the time from a single contaminated body of water. That places some Indian tribes, as well as rural poor people who might subsist on local fish, at a special risk.
However, people who eat contaminated fish occasionally as part of a balanced diet, with most food coming from other sources, face little risk, the EPA says.
The fight over monitoring for mercury from power plants began in earnest in February, when the EPA told Congress it planned to cut by 50 percent the amount of mercury entering the environment as a result of people's activities.
The EPA decided not to announce tighter emissions controls. Instead, it proposed improving tests on contaminated lakes, working with high-risk populations, doing further research and boosting utility reporting requirements.
The last action would make more power plants report the mercury in fuel sources and in actual emissions. The public could get the emissions reports through the federal Toxic Release Inventory program.
Nationwide, the EPA said, the new requirements would cost utilities $14.7 million a year, divided among 421 facilities.
The electric power industry says it would waste of money, duplicate extensive industry studies that the EPA has already accepted and cost more than the EPA projects. TU Electric says it would spend $2 million a year on the new rule.
Through the industry-sponsored Electric Power Research Institute, "we just got through with a massive research project on this," said Dick Robertson, TU Electric's air quality manager.
The SEED Coalition prepared what Mr. Altman called an informal estimate of mercury emissions from power plants in Texas, based on 1994 fuel use.  The group estimated that 21 power plants emitted 11,316 pounds of mercury a year.
Four TU Electric plants accounted for 2,756 pounds a year, according to SEED's estimate.
Those figures, both statewide and for TU Electric alone, are close to TU Electric's own estimates. TU Electric's coal and lignite-burning plants probably emit a total of 2,000 to 4,000 pounds of mercury a year, Mr.  Robertson said. Lignite is a type of brown coal.
Mr. Robertson said the recent industry-sponsored study accurately told the EPA how much mercury is reaching the environment and where it's coming from.
But Reecea Henderson, North Texas director for the environmental group Clean Water Action, said utilities are trying to avoid the spotlight by not releasing plant-by-plant reports.
"We're very concerned about the public's right to know about mercury," Ms. Henderson said. "We know that what goes into the air goes into the water." 

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