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Friday, March 11 2005

More on mercury

The EPA will announce new rules next week governing mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants.

The good news is that mercury emissions from coal burning will finally come under some kind of regulation. That can’t happen quickly enough, as evidence continues to mount up that the toxic metal presents a major new threat. This story from the Boston Globe, for example, details how mercury is being found in songbirds and other forest-dwelling species. Previously, mercury was thought to only be a threat to fish and birds (and people) that ate the fish.

The bad news is that the new controls are less than what the law might actually require. The Clean Air Act would have required the best available controls, which currently filter about 90% of the mercury coming out of a powerplant. Under the new rules, the EPA will require a 70% reduction by 2018. Call me impatient, but I don’t see why we should have to wait 13 years.

What does this mean practically? Let’s say for the sake of argument that a power plant is currently emitting 100 pounds of mercury per year. Under the Clean Air Act as it’s been written and interpreted, that would drop to 10 pounds per year. Under the new rules, that same power plant might put 1,000 pounds more of mercury into the air by 2018. The worst part is that this is easily avoidable given current technology.

The Washington Post has more on the story. If you get a registration screen, use “register@kswildlife.org” as your email and “topeka” as your password.

+ Dan @ 12:37pm

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