For Immediate Release
April 29, 2004
Wendy Balazik, 202-675-2383
MORE THAN 450,000 AMERICANS TELL BUSH ADMINISTRATION TO CLEAN UP TOXIC MERCURY Mercury Rule Generates Record Number of Comments to Environmental Protection Agency
Washington, DC: More than 450,000 Americans have urged the Bush administration to start cleaning up toxic mercury pollution from power plants as soon as possible, generating a record number of public comments about any proposal ever submitted to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Instead of requiring power plants to use modern technology that could start reducing mercury pollution within four years, the Bush administration's ill-conceived plan would delay cleaning up this dangerous pollutant for decades.
The Bush administration's mercury proposal generated more public comments than any EPA rule on record, doubling the record number (225,000) generated by the New Source Review proposal in 2003. The comment period for the proposed mercury rule, which ends on Friday, April 30, included only four public hearings sponsored by the EPA. The Sierra Club and other groups organized nine "shadow" hearings across the country to collect more public comments.
"Who will the Bush administration listen to this time -- an unprecedented number of Americans or corporate polluters?" asked Carl Pope, Sierra Club's executive director. "We already know that polluting industries had a hand in writing the administration's mercury plan. It's time for the Bush administration to start protecting families and communities instead of polluters."
Pope said the Bush administration appears to be letting lobbyists for polluting industries, rather than scientists, write environmental laws. Further, longtime EPA staff has gone public with charges that the Bush administration ordered them to scrap the usual scientific and economic studies when drafting the new mercury plan. In marked contrast, the EPA's proposal duplicates language from a 2003 report written by West Associates, an industry organization representing 23 large Western utility companies. West Associates presented the EPA with recommendations for mercury regulations based on its own analysis of possible mercury emission reduction scenarios, and most of those recommendations ended up in the Bush administration's final proposal.
Mercury is a powerful toxin that causes learning and developmental disabilities in children and developing fetuses. It is so pervasive that 45 U.S. states and territories have warned the public to limit consumption of fish from mercury-contaminated lakes and rivers. Coal-fired power plants account for more than a third of mercury emissions and are responsible for "hot spot" areas where mercury concentrations are significantly higher.
"There is a better way," Pope said. "If the Bush administration simply enforced laws that are on the books, we'd be on the road to getting mercury out of America's lakes and rivers and off our dinner tables."
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