Carper Says President’s Mercury Proposal Inadequate, Usurps Congress

Calls on White House to Help Pass Stricter Mercury Controls

WASHINGTON – Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., today called recent mercury regulations proposed by the Bush administration “inadequate” and urged the president to work with Congress to pass stricter mercury controls as part of a comprehensive clean air bill. In a letter to President Bush, Carper expressed concern that the administration is trying to circumvent congressional authority through the regulations, which are similar to what the president proposed in his “Clear Skies” initiative. “It is … distressing to see that the administration may be trying to implement its own legislative agenda through the regulatory process,” wrote Carper, the senior Democrat on the Senate’s clean air subcommittee. “But inadequate regulations will not produce an effective remedy to mercury pollution. We should let Congress work its will.” Carper said existing mercury-control technology can produce greater reductions in mercury – and more quickly – than the president’s proposal, and urged the White House to withdraw its proposed regulations and work to pass strong, bipartisan clean-air legislation next year. Carper, along with Republican Sens. Lincoln Chafee, R-R.I., Judd Gregg, R-N.H., and Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., is the sponsor of the Clean Air Planning Act, which would reduce mercury emissions by 80 percent of current levels within a decade. The administration’s proposal, in contrast, would achieve only a 70 percent reduction, and then not until 2018. CAPA would also reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and carbon dioxide. The full text of the letter is as follows: December 19, 2003 President George W. Bush Mr. President, The Environmental Protection Agency proposed on December 15, 2003 new regulations for mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants. While I support stricter controls on mercury, I believe this proposal would not be sufficient to protect public health from one of our most toxic pollutants. Moreover, I am concerned that the administration is seeking to circumvent congressional authority over the Clean Air Act when it instead should be working with Congress to enact legislation to address the threat posed by mercury. Over the past year, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee has held various hearings on proposals to update provisions in the Clean Air Act and impose new limitations on mercury emissions. Testimony on the status of existing mercury-control technology demonstrated that substantial reductions of mercury emitted from coal-fired power plants is technically and economically feasible. That’s good news because the threat mercury poses to public health is well documented. In fact, the makers of such pollution-control technology assert that it may be possible to reduce emissions of mercury between 80 percent and 90 percent below current levels within the next decade. In contrast, your proposal would achieve only a 70 percent reduction below current emissions levels, and then not until 2018 – 15 years from now. Given the dangers posed by mercury – indeed, the FDA recently drafted new warnings on elevated mercury levels in tuna – the administration’s proposal is inadequate. We can and should do better. Controlling air pollution from electric power plants is challenging and difficult, and it will demand creative solutions. The proper forum to debate the issue and devise a solution, however, is Congress, where the Senate and House committees responsible for clean air policy can work together to craft effective legislation. Various bills are currently pending before Congress. The Clean Air Planning Act, a bipartisan proposal that I have introduced along with Sens. Lincoln Chafee, Judd Gregg, and Lamar Alexander, calls for significantly greater reductions in mercury emissions than EPA’s proposed regulation. Our bill merits consideration in developing a solution to this problem. It is therefore distressing to see that the administration may be trying to implement its own legislative agenda through the regulatory process. The mercury regulations, for instance, are strikingly similar to those presented in the administration’s Clear Skies Initiative. But inadequate regulations will not produce an effective remedy to mercury pollution. We should let Congress work its will. I therefore ask you to withdraw these proposed regulations and work with Congress to develop effective pollution-control measures. Along with other congressional leaders on this subject, I pledge to work with the administration to come up with a legislative solution to improve public health by reducing mercury emissions and crafting sound clean air policy. We all share a common interest in providing clean air and reliable energy for the nation. Working together, we can achieve success. With personal regards, I am Sincerely yours, Tom Carper