HARRISBURG -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s
use of a “cap and trade” to regulate mercury emissions from coal-fired
power plants not only will send energy dollars and construction jobs out of
Pennsylvania, but it also will make the commonwealth less competitive by
discouraging enhancements to in-state energy infrastructure.
is a strong proponent of trading and other market mechanisms, allowing such
a program for this highly toxic pollutant compromises the integrity of trading
and jeopardizes its legitimate use as an effective tool to achieve
cost-effective reductions when used in appropriate situations,”
Environmental Protection Secretary Kathleen A. McGinty said.
of banking and trading provisions in the federal mercury rule, utilities do
not have to make emission reductions in Pennsylvania. Instead, they can purchase
these reductions from upgraded facilities in other states as opposed to
investing to clean up plants here.
companies in Pennsylvania
have bought credits to a greater extent than power companies in any other
state in the union. Because of that, they’ve paid for upgrades at plants
outside the commonwealth, making in-state facilities less competitive
compared to upgraded plants helping to feed an increasing integrated power
grid. In just the last few years, the grid that serves Pennsylvania now serves all or part of
means that Pennsylvania plants now compete
with plants that Pennsylvania ratepayers
have been paying to upgrade, while Pennsylvania
power companies have delayed in-state improvements.
push policies that push upgrades out of state at our peril,” McGinty said.
“Commonwealth ratepayers ultimately would pay the price, as their money
would head out of state to upgrade competitor’s plants and clean up other
also stressed that using a cap-and-trade program to control mercury is a
potentially unlawful and dangerous abuse of this innovative tool to improve
air and water quality. The federal Clean Air Act of 1990 expressly
prohibits trading for toxics like mercury.
December 2000 regulatory finding by EPA determined it is “appropriate and
necessary” to regulate mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants as a
hazardous air pollutant. But in January 2004, EPA rescinded that 2000
regulatory finding requiring control technologies. EPA’s revised finding,
which became final in March 2005, cleared the way for the agency to reject
the technology requirements and put in place a trading program.
report issued by EPA’s Inspector General Nikki L. Tinsley indicated that
the mercury emission limits in the final mercury rule were pre-selected by
EPA management to conform to the Clean Air Interstate Rule and did not
represent a valid analysis of all the possible mercury control options. The
EPA Inspector General also stated that the development of a standard to
reduce mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants was “compromised and,
therefore, may not represent the lowest emissions level that could be achieved.”
only is the federal action unlawful, it has been challenged in federal
court by numerous states, including Pennsylvania.
But, there is no new science supporting the notion that mercury, recognized
by Congress in 1990 and EPA in 2000 to be hazardous, has now been
transformed into a relatively less toxic chemical,” McGinty said. “In fact,
recent studies indicate the problem is worse than previously thought, from
a public health standpoint and in terms of the amount of mercury already
present in the environment.”
other air contaminants that disperse broadly, mercury deposits locally and
tends to concentrate, creating toxic “hot spots” of contamination.
February, EPA-funded research showed that nearly 70 percent of the mercury
collected at an Ohio River
site originated from nearby coal-burning industrial plants. Conducted over
two years in Steubenville,
Ohio, the study is the first
in which scientists used rain samples and meteorological data to track
mercury from smokestacks to monitors. An earlier EPA Office of Water study
found local sources within a state commonly contribute more than 50 percent
to 80 percent of the mercury deposition.
this month, Massachusetts
reported a 32 percent average decrease in the level of mercury found in
yellow perch caught in nine lakes in the northeast corner of the state,
where a cluster of incinerators is located. The reductions came seven years
after the state enacted the nation’s toughest mercury emission laws for
incinerators. Comparatively, yellow perch from lakes elsewhere in the state
recorded a 15 percent drop on average.
studies have had similar findings. A Florida Everglades study showed that
mercury concentrations found in fish and wading birds there dropped by 60
to 70 percent due to local mercury emission reduction efforts.
studies illustrate the point that local emission reduction efforts play a
substantial role in improving air quality and the environment,” McGinty
far, 21 states, including Pennsylvania, have – or are about to adopt –
state-specific proposals to reduce mercury emissions from coal-fired
electric generating units. That makes EPA’s cap-and-trade program
ineffective. With more states going their own way and deciding not to
participate in the trading program, there are fewer credits available.
state-specific mercury reduction plan are available on DEP’s Web site at www.depweb.state.pa.us.
NOTE: This release is the fourth in a series to address key issues
state-specific mercury reduction proposal. Visit the department’s Web site
at www.depweb.state.pa for all the releases and