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E-M:/ Sierra Club statement on EPA's refusal to control toxic mercury emissions

Enviro-Mich message from "Anne Woiwode" <Anne.Woiwode@sierraclub.org>


February 20, 2007
Contact: James Pew, Earthjustice (202) 667-4500
Virginia Cramer, Sierra Club (202) 675-6279
Rebecca Bornhorst, Downwinders At Risk (214) 912-2093

 EPA Do-Nothing Rule on Cement Kiln Mercury Pollution Ignores Court Order,
                               Public Outcry
Activists back in court to challenge EPA's latest refusal to control toxic
                             mercury emissions

Washington, D.C. : Environmentalists challenged the Environmental
Protection Agency's latest refusal to limit cement kilns' mercury emissions
late last week in a federal lawsuit against the EPA. Earthjustice is
representing Sierra Club, Downwinders At Risk (Texas), the Huron
Environmental Activist League (Michigan), Friends of Hudson (New York),
Desert Citizens Against Pollution (California) and Montanans Against Toxic
Burning in the lawsuit. New York state is also expected to challenge this
rule in a separate lawsuit today.

The groups filed the lawsuit February 16 in the U.S. Court of Appeals for
the District of Columbia Circuit.
In December 2000, a federal court found that EPA's refusal to control
cement kilns' mercury emissions violated the Clean Air Act, and ordered the
agency to set the missing standards. Six years later, EPA has issued only
do-nothing housekeeping requirements that will have "essentially...zero"
impact on the kilns' toxic pollution. The agency estimates that
approximately 118 cement kilns emit over 11,000 pounds of mercury each
year, making cement kilns one of the largest sources of mercury pollution.
The nation's single largest mercury polluter of any kind is a cement kiln
in southern California, which emitted over 2,500 pounds of mercury in 2004.

"Once again the EPA has failed to put public health first," said Carl Pope,
Sierra Club executive director. "The agency ignored the law. They have
ignored the courts and they have ignored public health for too long.  It's
time for the EPA to do what they should have been doing all along- reducing
the toxic mercury pollution that is harming our health and the health of
our children."

In addition to defying the Clean Air Act and repeated court orders, EPA's
refusal to set mercury standards ignores the pleas of more than 20,000
people who wrote to the agency urging EPA to finally bring cement kilns'
mercury pollution under control.

"Under this administration, EPA's disregard for Congress and the courts has
hit a new low," said Earthjustice attorney James Pew. "The Clean Air Act
required EPA to set mercury standards for cement kilns almost a decade ago.
A federal court ordered EPA to issue those standards six years ago. Still
it refuses. This is an agency that thinks it is above the law."

Mercury is a dangerous and powerful neurotoxin that can cause developmental
problems in newborns and young children. Mercury pollution is deposited in
waters and eventually ends up in our food supply. People are exposed to
unhealthy levels of mercury when we eat mercury-contaminated fish. EPA
estimates that 15% of women of childbearing age, or one out of every six,
have enough mercury in their blood to put a baby at risk of cognitive and
developmental damage.

"There is a very real, very sad human cost to not cutting toxic mercury
emissions at these cement plants," said Kathy Flanagan, a member of
Downwinders At Risk and stepmother of an 18-year old ADHD/autistic son.
"You hear a lot about the cost to industry to install new controls, but the
human cost, the cost to families, and a clean future never seem to make it
onto EPA's ledger when the government is deciding what to do about so much
mercury coming out of cement plant smokestacks."

The EPA has been under fire recently for its failure to implement required
rules to reduce toxic air pollution from a variety of industrial pollution
sources. In July 2006, the Government Accountability Office issued a report
that blasted EPA for failing to take action on scores of specific pollution
control measures that Congress required the Agency to complete years ago.
Later that summer, a federal court found that EPA's implementation of key
toxics requirements in the Clean Air Act has been "grossly delinquent" and
that, "EPA currently devotes substantial resources to discretionary
rulemakings, many of which make existing regulations more congenial to
industry, and several of which since have been found unlawful."

Just this month, the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works
held an oversight hearing on EPA, where chairwoman Sen. Barbara Boxer
(D-CA), said in a statement that, "The pattern of these year-end actions is
striking-the public interest is sacrificed and environmental protection
compromised. Who gains from these rollbacks? Just look at who asked for
them, like Big Oil and the battery industry. EPA's actions and proposed
actions make it clear who EPA is protecting."


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