Bill Enjoys Bipartisan Support, Along With Boost from Environment and Health Groups
Feb 14 2008
WASHINGTON – Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) today introduced legislation to help protect Americans from the harmful effects of mercury pollution.
The “Mercury Emissions Control Act” (MECA) would require the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to issue a new, stronger rule to control mercury emissions from power plants, as required by the Clean Air Act.
Sen. Carper, chairman of the Senate Clean Air and Nuclear Safety subcommittee, offered this legislation in response to a Feb. 8, 2008, ruling by a federal court rejecting the Bush administration’s 2005 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 2005 EPA rule established a weak cap-and-trade program, which would allow many power plants to avoid installing any mercury controls at all.
Sen. Carper’s bipartisan legislation would require the EPA to propose a regulation of hazardous air pollutants from power plants as was originally prescribed by the Clean Air Act. This regulation must include a reduction of mercury pollution by at least 90 percent, and must be proposed no later than October 1, 2008.
“EPA’s flawed mercury rule ignored federal law and did not go far enough to protect the health of the unborn, children, and adults who are at increased risk from mercury pollution,” said Sen. Carper. “Americans have already waited too long for mercury pollution to be addressed. 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.”
Early bipartisan cosponsors of this legislation include Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Joe Biden (D-Del.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine).
Sen. Alexander said: “Every power plant needs to cut its mercury emissions to the greatest extent possible. Current EPA mercury rules are based on the premise that once mercury exits a power plant smokestack, it circles the globe. But the more we look, the more we find that this highly toxic metal ‘hits and sticks’ within a few hundred miles of those smokestacks. We know mercury is bad – grocery stores across America now post warnings from the Food and Drug Administration stating women of child-bearing age and children should not eat certain types of fish because of potentially high levels of mercury. So it’s past time for EPA to start establishing a new rule that protects the health of Americans.”
Sen. Biden said: “It’s a shame the EPA’s foot-dragging has forced us to this point. The Clean Air Act is explicit in its instructions to address emissions, especially those as harmful to our families as mercury. We’re talking about saving lives. The American people have the right to expect that the Environmental Protection Agency is looking out for their health. This legislation will spur the EPA to adopt a new policy soon and implement the forward-looking regulations that should have already been in place.”
Sen. Collins said: “EPA’s 2005 mercury rule was improperly crafted and ignored federal law. The agency’s flawed rule had excluded major sources of mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants until 2018, despite clear evidence that cost-effective mercury control technologies are available. EPA’s own scientists, its Inspector General, the Government Accountability Office and now the courts have all found flaws in the rule. This bill requires EPA to establish a new rule that complies with the law and to propose that rule by October 1st of this year. EPA should develop a strong program based on science as quickly as possible in order to protect our citizens and our environment from this dangerously toxic chemical.”
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.
“Cost-efficient, practical technology is available today to regulate mercury emissions from power plants,” said Sen. Carper. “The EPA must now act quickly to implement pollution requirements that are absolutely necessary to protect American lives.”
Sen. Carper 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.
Other cosponsors now joining onto the bill include: Sens. 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 National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the National Association of Clean Air Agencies and the American Lung Association.