Record 600,000 Protest Bush Plan to Weaken Mercury Emission Controls

June 28, 2004

Tomorrow marks the last day for the public to comment on the highest-profile battle in years between the Bush administration and advocates of public health. The administration is under court order to finalize the first-ever federal regulations to reduce poisonous emissions of mercury from power plants--the largest uncontrolled source of mercury pollution in the U.S.

The battle is marked by an unprecedented public protest against a Bush administration Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposal that would allow power plants to emit six to seven times more mercury into America's air--and for at least a decade longer--than would be the case if the current Clean Air Act were simply implemented in good faith.

An EPA analysis earlier this year stated that 630,000 American newborns are at risk each year of having unsafe levels of mercury in their blood. Mercury can cause serious developmental and neurological problems in children. It is a highly toxic chemical whose effects on the central nervous system are comparable to those of lead. Many people are exposed to mercury by eating tainted fish. Currently, more than 40 states have issued advisories against eating mercury-contaminated fish from their rivers, lakes and streams.

Properly implemented, the Clean Air Act would bring about a 90 percent reduction of mercury emissions over three years. But the Bush administration has stubbornly defended its plan to reduce mercury emissions by only 70 percent--and over a period of 13 years. As a result, over 600,000 citizens have submitted comments opposing the Bush plan. This is more than twice the highest number of comments EPA has ever received on a rulemaking--greater even than the outcry when the administration tried (unsuccessfully) to fend off stronger controls over arsenic in drinking water.

Two months ago 45 Senators and 10 attorneys general called on EPA Administrator Michael Leavitt to abandon the EPA proposal and instead finalize a rule that complies with the Clean Air Act. And this week 184 members of the House did the same.

"It seems the only people applauding the administration's mercury rule are the people who wrote it: power companies and the Bush administration," Angela Ledford, director of Clear the Air, an environmental health advocacy group, told BushGreenwatch. "Today's Washington Post reports that mercury releases are up 10 percent. This underlines the need to require power plants to reduce emissions as much and as fast as technology allows."

Critics of the Bush plan note that a combination of 25 mercury-emitting utilities have donated nearly $6 million to President Bush's campaign, and that they would share a savings of $2.7 billion under the administration proposal.

Submit a comment to EPA through MercuryHurts.org :

Source: http://www.bushgreenwatch.org/mt_archives/000144.php


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