Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Michigan's Governor Granholm Painfully Slow on Mercury Reduction Plan

Lansing—More than halfway through her gubernatorial term, Governor Granholm has yet to follow-through on a campaign pledge made in 2002: to phase-out and eliminate mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants.

"Every day children are born in Michigan with learning disabilities as a result of mercury pollution, and it has been more than 1000 days since Governor Granholm promised to reduce mercury," said PIRGIM's Kate Madigan. "The longer we delay action, the more children will be unnecessarily exposed to dangerously high levels of mercury."

Governor Granholm convened a mercury work group in July 2003 under the supervision of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ), to create a plan for reducing mercury emissions from Michigan's coal-fired power plants. The work group includes electric utilities...(read more) and environmental and conservation groups.

However, the work group is now more than a year late in producing its recommendations. The most recent workgroup deadline was set for April 15, but the workgroup will miss that date with another delay until May 19.

"As a member of the mercury work group, I know that the group could have, and should have, produced recommendations long ago," continued Madigan. "Utilities want to delay this process as long as they can to avoid doing anything to reduce their mercury pollution, just as they have done at the federal level."

Madigan went on to say, "In the process, the utility industry is keeping our state from moving towards new and cleaner technologies, creating new jobs that go along with that, and letting our economy evolve into the 21st century."

Over the past year, Michigan citizens have generated thousands of letters, phone calls, and e-mails to the governor showing their support for 90 percent mercury reductions by the end of the decade. In a September 2004 letter responding to the thousands of public comments in support of reducing mercury, the Governor confirmed that, "The Mercury Utility Task Force has been charged with developing recommendations to reduce mercury emissions by 90 percent." The EPA concluded in 2000 that cost-effective technology exists to reduce mercury emissions by 90 percent by 2008.

"The children that were in-utero when the Governor made her promise are now starting preschool," said Madigan. "The technology is available today and the costs are minimal to reduce mercury by 90 percent this decade. There is no reason for further delays."

Mercury is a dangerous neurotoxin that causes learning disabilities, developmental delays, lowered IQ, and attention deficits in children, and heart attacks and other problems in adults. EPA scientists estimate that one in six women of childbearing age has enough mercury in her body to put her child at risk, should she become pregnant.

Power plants are the single largest source of U.S. mercury emissions, contributing 41 percent of U.S. mercury emissions. Michigan's power plants emitted 2,714 lbs. of mercury in 2002, and our state has the second worst mercury hotspot in the country. The principal way that people are exposed to mercury is by eating fish. Unfortunately, mercury is so prevalent in Michigan's waterways that the state health department has issued fish consumption advisories for every inland lake in the state.

Under court-appointed deadline, EPA finalized a weak mercury rule on March 15. But the rule discarded Clean Air Act requirements that it regulate mercury according to the maximum extent achievable, and instead established a "cap-and-trade" program for mercury under which power plants will be able to avoid meaningful reductions until 2025. Already, 10 states have decided to challenge the rule in court on the grounds that it does not comply with the Clean Air Act. Also, several states have already or are in the process of taking state-level action to reduce mercury from their power plants.

"By dropping the ball on mercury, the Bush administration and EPA have left it up to states to protect public health," said Madigan. "Michigan families are depending on Governor Granholm to come through on her promise and reduce mercury from state power plants by 90 percent."


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