WASHINGTON – Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) issued the following statement in response to the release of a U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) study that shows mercury control technologies at coal-fired power plants are achieving substantial emissions reductions at low costs.
Sen. Carper has carefully monitored mercury pollution issues as chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee’s Clean Air and Nuclear Safety Subcommittee, and he requested this GAO report to examine costs and reductions achieved by power plant mercury control technologies.
Sen. Carper said:
“Mercury pollution is a nationwide problem, and 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. A recent U.S. Geological Survey study showed there was mercury contamination in every fish sampled in 291 streams across the country.
“When pregnant women eat mercury contaminated fish in sufficient quantities over time, mercury can build up in their bodies and harm brain development of their unborn children. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, eight percent of women may have unsafe levels of mercury in their blood.
“Currently, American coal-fired power plants are our nation’s largest unregulated industrial source of mercury emissions.
“I have long argued that cost-efficient, practical technology exists to reduce mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants. This GAO report clearly shows that mercury control technology for power plants is commercially available, can achieve 90 percent reductions for all coal types, and costs little when compared to other pollution control devices.
“The GAO study shows that new technology is not only getting greater than 90 percent reductions in mercury emissions, but also shows that costs to a consumer can be as low as 10 cents a month. I believe most of us would pay 10 cents more on our monthly electric bill to help keep 600,000 more babies healthy every year.
“Already 18 states have moved forward on state regulations to reduce coal-fired mercury emissions. No longer can we wait at the federal level – the time for action is now.”
Sen. Carper is working with Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) on a bill that would curb power plants’ emissions of soot, mercury and smog-forming pollutants.
Text of the GAO report is available here.