Statements and Speeches

On Mercury Legislation

Opening Statement: Committee on Environment and Public Works

May 13 2008

Mercury pollution can be a serious health threat when it is released into the air by power plants and settles into oceans and waterways, where it accumulates in fish and animal tissue. Children and women of childbearing age are most at risk.

Studies show that one in 17 women of childbearing age have mercury in their blood at levels that could pose a risk to their unborn children.

In 2005 EPA went against the mandates of the Clean Air Act and finalized the flawed Clean Air Mercury Rule. This regulation ignored federal law and did not go far enough to protect the health of America’s vulnerable populations.

On February 8, 2008, a federal court rejected the Bush Administration’s Clean Air Mercury Rule.

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 rule established a weak cap-and-trade program, which would allow many power plants to avoid installing any mercury controls at all.

In its decision, the court said EPA’s Mercury Rule was based on “the logic of the Queen of Hearts, substituting the EPA’s desires for the plain text” of the law.

Americans have waited too long for mercury pollution to be addressed. The EPA must now act quickly to implement pollution requirements that are absolutely necessary to protect American lives.

We know that cost-efficient, practical technology is available today to regulate mercury emissions from power plants. I have requested an update to the May 2005 GAO Report that reviewed emerging mercury control technologies to document this.

On February 14, 2008 I introduced legislation to help protect Americans from the harmful effects of mercury pollution.

The Mercury Emissions Control Act would require the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to issue a new, stronger rule to control mercury emissions from power plants, as required by the Clean Air Act.

This legislation, which has 11 bipartisan cosponsors, would require the EPA to propose a regulation of hazardous air pollutants from power plants as originally prescribed by the Clean Air Act. It would require a reduction of mercury pollution by at least 90 percent.

My Mercury Emissions Control Act would require that mercury controls be installed at every power plant in America.

Although the focus of today’s hearing is mercury, as we move closer to a floor debate on global warming, we must consider many pollutants threatening our health and environment.

When dealing with air pollution from power plants it makes sense to address all the pollutants at the same time. Whether it is ozone-forming NOx, asthma-causing SO2, toxic mercury emissions, or global warming-causing CO2, they all come out of the same smoke stack.

By addressing all four pollutants as a system, power plants will have the flexibility and regulatory certainty needed to plan for the most cost-effective control strategy.

Our witnesses will testify about the state of mercury control technology, health effects and the need for strong regulation as well as progress that states are making. Mrs. Lisa Jackson from New Jersey has joined us today. In addition, I received a compelling letter from Douglas Scott, Director of the Illinois EPA, supporting my mercury bill and discussing efforts his state is making to reduce mercury pollution. I ask that the letter be entered in the record.

I am grateful to all the witnesses here to today, and look forward to hearing your testimony.