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MERCURY: "Mercury called biggest emissions threat"
- Subject: MERCURY: "Mercury called biggest emissions threat"
- From: Jackie Hunt Christensen <email@example.com> (by way of Debby Ortman <firstname.lastname@example.org>)
- Date: Mon, 02 Mar 1998 14:01:48 -0800
- List-Name: GLIN-Announce
[ENN - Environmental[News] etwork]
Mercury called biggest emissions threat
Thursday, February 26, 1998
Mercury is the most threatening toxic material produced by
electric power plants, but there is no technology to effectively
cut the emissions, federal regulators said Wednesday.
In a report required by Congress, the EPA assessed dangers posed
by utility emissions, and found mercury the leading risk. It was
distantly followed by substances such as arsenic, beryllium,
cadmium and dioxin.
The report was to lead to a determination in April by the agency
on how to proceed with regulating mercury emissions from
utilities, but an EPA official said that may be delayed.
"We're focusing on what additional research we need. There are
more scientific needs before we make a determination," said the
official, who asked not to be named. "What we do in April is kind
of up in the air."
The report followed a massive study on mercury that the EPA
released in December that said power plants that burn coal
accounted for 33 percent of human-generated mercury emissions in
this country. It said people who regularly eat fish from
mercury-tainted waters faced the greatest risk.
Mercury -- a heavy metal that can cause neurological damage,
particularly in fetuses -- is released into the environment mostly
Power plants that burn coal emit significant levels of mercury,
while plants that use natural gas or other power sources do not.
Environmentalists and health advocates have long pushed the EPA to
clamp down on utilities' emissions.
"EPA operates under the body-bag school of study. We're saying we
should have health standards strong enough that show that there
are no risks from living close to these plants," Brett Hulsey, of
the Sierra Club, said.
Hulsey said there are technologies for power plants to cut their
mercury emissions "but they are more expensive than for
incinerators" which the EPA regulates.
A spokeswoman for the Edison Electric Institute, which represents
investor-owned utilities, said she could not yet comment on the
But she said, "The rubber hits the road next month when the EPA
determines which regulatory recommendations they make."
EPA Administrator Carol Browner said in a statement that the
agency has taken actions that will reduce mercury emissions by
more than 50 percent by 2006.
The agency said it imposed stricter standards on waste
incinerators and expects more reductions in mercury emissions as a
side-benefit of reducing emissions of heat-trapping carbon gases
in its effort to fight global warming.
But the report said more research may be needed on utility
emissions, including more data on mercury content of various types
of coal, the impact of reducing utility mercury emissions on
bioaccumulation in fish, human health and environmental benefits
from reducing utility mercury emissions, how other regulatory
programs affect emissions and development of better control
Copyright 1998, Reuters, All Rights Reserved