Sen. Carper Implores Johnson to Come Up With a Plan to Address Mercury

WASHINGTON – Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), at a hearing before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee today, called on EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson to outline how his agency plans to respond to a recent court decision that rejected the EPA’s controversial mercury rule. Sen. Carper, who chairs the Senate Clean Air and Nuclear Safety Subcommittee, asked Johnson to complete, within 30 days, an agency review of the court decision, including how the EPA plans to write a new mercury rule that complies with the Clean Air Act. 

“The court’s ruling was clear: The EPA’s mercury rule was seriously flawed and would not have gone far enough to protect public health. The agency needs to take this ruling to heart and come up with a plan to implement a mercury rule that complies with Clean Air Act, rather than challenge the court decision and continue to delay putting in place vital mercury protections,” said Sen. Carper. “The EPA now has a clear choice: Take action to protect Americans and our environment from mercury or further delay with law suits defending a flawed environmental policy. Americans have waited too long to be safe from unhealthy mercury emissions. Cost-effective technology exists today to dramatically reduce mercury emissions from power plants far beyond what was proposed by the Bush administration. It’s time we do more to clean up our nation’s power plants and protect people’s lives.”

Earlier this month, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that the EPA failed to fulfill its obligations under Section 112 of the Clean Air Act because the 2005 EPA rule established a weak cap-and-trade program, which would allow many power plants to avoid installing any mercury controls at all.

In response to the Feb. 8 federal court ruling rejecting the Bush administration’s mercury rule, Sen. Carper introduced his own legislation to help protect Americans from the harmful effects of mercury pollution.

The “Mercury Emissions Control Act” (MECA), bipartisan legislation introduced on Feb. 14, would require the EPA to issue a new, stronger rule to control hazardous mercury emissions from power plants, as required by the Clean Air Act.  Sen., Carpers bill requires this new EPA regulation include a reduction of mercury pollution by at least 90 percent, and must be proposed no later than Oct. 1, 2008.

“My bill would require the EPA to act now to comply with federal clean air laws by writing a mercury rule that protects public health and mandates that mercury controls be installed at every power plant in America,” Sen. Carper said at its introduction. Bipartisan cosponsors of this legislation include Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Joe Biden (D-Del.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), John Kerry (D-Mass.), Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Bob Menendez (D-N.J.).

Several key health and environmental groups also are supporting the bill, including the Environmental Defense Fund, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the National Association of Clean Air Agencies and the American Lung Association.

Studies show that six percent of American women of child-bearing age have blood mercury levels high enough to cause neurological problems in their unborn children and each year in this country, 630,000 children are born having been exposed to dangerous levels of mercury in the womb.

Sen. Carper also stressed that the recent court ruling also further justifies passage of his Clean Air Planning Act (CAPA), which would require every power plant to reduce its mercury emissions by 90 percent by 2015, as well as reduce emissions of nitrogen oxide, nitrogen oxide and carbon dioxide.