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E-M:/ More mercury in the Great Lakes?

Enviro-Mich message from "TONY DEFALCO" <DEFALCO@nwf.org>

That's what will happen if the electric power industry gets its way.  Through the Utility Air Regulatory Group (UARG is an ad hoc group of electric utilities), the industry has submitted a "petition of opposition" to EPA as well as initiating litigation attempting to overturn EPA's recent decision to regulate mercury and other toxic pollutants (like arsenic, cadmium, dioxin and radio nuclides).  EPA's determination to regulate emissions would start the process of regulating mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants.  As of now, no regulations exist for emissions of this toxic metal.  Today, National Wildlife Federation and 42 conservation and environmental groups united to fight this attempt (see press release below).

As of April of 1998, several Great Lakes utilities were members of UARG.  Here's the list of recalcitrants in MI, MN and WI and their 1998 air emissions of mercury.  It's important to remember that these facilities also produce significant quantities of mercury in coal combustion waste (a waste that EPA deemed non-hazardous under great pressure from the utilities last year).

* Michigan *
CMS / Consumers Energy.  CMS / Consumers operates the JH Campbell facility in West Olive (373 pounds); the Dan E. Karn facility in Essexville (154 pounds); the B.C. Cobb facility in Muskegon (128 pounds); and the J.C. Weadock facility in Essexville (108 pounds).

Detroit Edison.  DTE operates the Monroe Power Plant in Monroe (724 pounds); the St Clair Power Plant in East China Twp (232 pounds); the  Trenton Channel Power Plant in Trenton (212 pounds); the River Rouge Power Plant in River Rouge (185 pounds); and the Belle River Power Plant in China Twp (182 pounds).

* Minnesota *
Minnesota Power (now Allete).  Minnesota Power operates the Clay Boswell facility in Cohasset, MN (307 pounds).

* Wisconsin *
Wisconsin Electric.  Wisconsin Electric operates the Pleasant Prairie facility in Kenosha (508 pounds); and the South Oak Creek facility in Oak Creek (212 pounds).

It's extremely regressive for the industry to fight regulations that will protect the people and wildlife of the Great Lakes.  Environmental groups, children's health groups, tribes, and the states of Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin all submitted comments to EPA last years asking EPA to regulate emissions of mercury and other toxic pollutants.

Please take a moment today to send a letter to EPA Administrator Christine Whitman asking her to protect the Great Lakes fish, people and wildlife from the harmful effects of mercury by developing regulations of emissions from power plants.  Your letter can make a difference in keeping intact this hard-earned step toward protection of Lake Superior from mercury.  You can do this on the web at: http://www.nwf.org/cleantherain/epamercury.html 

If you want to send a letter to Administrator Whitman, here's her address:
Christine Todd Whitman
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Room 1101A
Ariel Rios Building
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, N. W.
Washington, DC 20460
Fax: (202) 501-1450

People and Nature:  Our Future Is in the Balance®

For Immediate Release: March 22, 2001

Andy Buchsbaum 734/769-3351 
Felice Stadler 202/797-6692

Conservation Groups Unite to Fight Electric Industry's Attempts to Reverse Mercury Pollution Restrictions

Following last week's reversal on promised carbon dioxide restrictions, 
conservationists wonder if mercury is next?

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Conservation groups nationwide joined the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) today in legal actions demanding that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) stand strong against the electric industry's attempts to overturn the recent EPA decision to regulate mercury and other toxic air pollutants.  This "Petition of Opposition" is prompted by the administration's reversal last week on campaign promises to limit the amount of carbon dioxide emissions from the nation's power plants.

"We are asking the Bush administration and the EPA not to sacrifice the health of people and wildlife because of pressure from the electric utility industry," said Andy Buchsbaum, NWF water quality projects manager.  "For more than 10 years the electric utility industry has been trying to derail efforts to regulate their mercury emissions, despite mounting evidence of the public health and ecological risk of mercury exposure and the increasing public and political support for national controls."  

The Petition of Opposition follows the legal battle which began yesterday when NWF, Natural Resources Defense Council , the Clean Air Task Force and seven state and regional organizations filed motions to intervene with the U.S. Court of Appeals challenging the Utility Air Regulatory Group's (UARG) petition asking the court to overturn EPA's December 2000 regulatory determination.  UARG represents about 50 of the nation's largest electric power companies.

The electric power industry also filed a legal petition with EPA in February that threatens to overturn the EPA's regulatory determination that sets a schedule for developing national mercury and other air toxics controls for coal- and oil-fired electric utilities.  EPA's announcement in December followed an intensive three-year campaign that pitted the industry against environmental and public health advocates calling for national controls on the largest uncontrolled source of mercury pollution.

The industry's petition to EPA makes two arguments:  1) that the agency failed to adequately quantify the human health risk posed by mercury emissions to justify controls, and 2) that the agency failed to provide the public the opportunity to comment before finalizing its decision.

Environmentalists strongly object to what they call a "groundless" industry petition.
"Countless studies have documented that mercury emissions from U.S. sources, including coal-fired electric utilities, contaminate lakes and streams, the fish within those water bodies, and the people and wildlife who eat the fish," said NWF senior scientist, Mike Murray.  "A drop of mercury as small as 1/70th of a teaspoon every year can contaminate a 25-acre lake to the point that the fish in it are unsafe to eat.  When you consider a typical 100-megawatt power plant emits about 50 pounds of mercury a year, the potential for tremendous ecological and human health problems becomes alarmingly clear." 

"The electric power plant industry's argument that the public had no opportunity to weigh in is flat out wrong," said Eric Palola, director of NWF's Northeastern office.  "EPA spent years soliciting input on whether to regulate the electric industry, more so than it has for any other industry that's been regulated under the Clean Air Act.  And the public will have many more opportunities to offer their input in the next four years during the rulemaking process."

"The industry's petition is a cynical attempt to capitalize on a 'energy crisis'," said Felice Stadler, National Policy Director of NWF's Clean the Rain Campaign.  "We have the technology right now to deeply and cost-effectively cut mercury emissions from this industry without affecting the supply of electricity to people's homes.  Power plants are the nation's largest source of mercury air pollution * it's time for them to do their share to cut back on harmful mercury emissions."

Just yesterday, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released their latest findings on mercury levels in the U.S. population in a report called National Report on Human Exposures to Environmental Chemicals.  Based on blood mercury levels reported in that study, at least 10 percent of women of childbearing age ingest mercury at rates above the EPA's safe level, and it can be estimated that approximately 390,000 children are born annually at risk for neurological effects due to mercury exposure. 

Mercury is a toxic metal that damages the nervous system in people and wildlife.  It persists in the environment and builds up in the food chain threatening the health of critical wildlife and women and children and the economy.  Some scientists estimate that if all pollution ceased today, it could take up to 50 years before fish would be safe to eat.     

"People expect the Bush administration to look out for their safety and the health of their environment," said NWF president and CEO, Mark Van Putten.  "We call on President Bush to prove them right."

The nation's largest member-supported conservation education and advocacy group, the National Wildlife Federation unites people from all walks of life to protect nature, wildlife and the world we all share.  The Federation has educated and inspired families to uphold America's conservation tradition since 1936.

For more information visit our online press kit at www.nwf.org/cleantherain

Petition of Opposition signers include:
Izaak Walton League of America
Environmental Defense
National Environmental Trust
Air and Energy Coalition for Clean Air
Our Children's Earth Foundation
Legal Environmental Assistance Fund
Center for Neighborhood Technology
Delta Institute
Illinois Environmental Council
Ohio B.A.S.S. Chapter Federation
Ohio Environmental Council
East Michigan Environmental Action Council
Michigan Environmental Council
Michigan United Conservation Clubs
Clean Water Action Alliance of Minnesota
Minnesota Conservation Federation
Montana Environmental Information Center
Great Lakes United
League of Ohio Sportsmen
Texas Campaign for the Environment
Glen Canyon Action Network
Utahns for an Energy Efficient Economy (UE3)
Washington Public Interest Research Group
Lake Superior Alliance
Sierra Club, Midwest Office
Wasatch Clean Air Coalition
Southern Environmental Law Center
Lake Michigan Federation
Hoosier Environmental Council
Indiana Wildlife Federation
Valley Watch, Inc.
Natural Resources Council of Maine
Clean Water Action Alliance of MA
HEAT- Hamtramck Environmental Action Team
Clean Air Council
Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club
Galveston-Houston Association for Smog Prevention
Ohio Public Interest Research Group
Ohio Smallmouth Alliance
Ohio Wildlife Federation
The Oregon Clearinghouse for Pollution Reduction
Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future


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