Tag Archives: mercury

Springtime for toxics

Toxics; as in mercury emitted by coal-fired power plants. The EPA has taken action to finally stop the pollution, but the pro-pollution Republicans are pissed off now, as NY Times columnist Paul Krugman explains. People who care – and I mean really care – about the future have got to ensure that one of these polluter-friendly Republicans is NOT elected (or is “selected?”) president in 2012.

Toward healthier air

That’s the headline the NY Times gave this article about the Obama administration’s (finally!) action to approve new emissions standards for mercury and others from coal-fired power plants and such. Of course, the best thing for Americans and the world-at-large would be to shut down all coal-burners.

Obama caves on new Clean Air Act rules

Here’s another big disappointment from the guy I went door to door for in Pennsylvania. No guts. He caves when campaign donors wave. Never mind Americans who get sick from breathing pollutants from coal-burning power plants. And never mind Common Loons here in northern New England and the Adirondacks who have to eat fish contaminated with mercury emitted by those same power plants.

America the beautiful? House bills have other theme


EPA administrator’s testimony before Senate committee

Madam Chairman, thank you for inviting me to testify about EPA’s ongoing efforts to protect our health by reducing the air pollution that affects millions of Americans. I know this subject very personally because my son is one of the more than 25 million Americans battling asthma.

Let me begin my testimony with a matter of fact: pollution, such as mercury and particulate matter, shortens and reduces the quality of Americans’ lives and puts at risk the health and development of future generations.

We know mercury is a toxin that causes neurological damage to adults, children and developing fetuses. We know mercury causes neurological damage, including lost IQ point in children. And we know particulate matter can lead to respiratory disease, decreased lung function and even pre-mature death. These pollutants – and others including arsenic, chromium and acid gases –come from power plants.

These are simple facts that should not be up for debate.

However, Madam Chairman, while Americans across the country suffer from this pollution, special interests who are trying to gut long-standing public health protections are now going so far as to claim that these pollutants aren’t even harmful. These myths are being perpetrated by some of the same lobbyists who have in the past testified before Congress about the importance of reducing mercury and particulate matter. Now on behalf of their clients, they’re saying the exact opposite.

The good news is that to address this pollution problem, in 1970 Congress passed the Clean Air Act – which was signed into law by a Republican President, and then strengthened in 1990 under another Republican Administration.

Last year alone, the Clean Air Act is estimated to have saved 160,000 lives and prevented more than 100,000 hospital visits. Simply put, protecting public health and the environment should not be – and historically has not been – a partisan issue.

Despite all the distractions, let me assure you that EPA will continue to base all of our public health protections on two key principles: the law and the best science. Allow me to focus on two current activities.

On March 16, after 20 years in the making, EPA proposed the first ever national standards for mercury and other toxic air pollution from power plants.  While many power plants already comply, the standards will level the playing field by requiring additional power plants to install widely-available, proven pollution control technologies.

Deployment of these technologies will prevent an estimated:

  • 17,000 premature deaths
  • 11,000 heart attacks
  • 120,000 cases of childhood asthma symptoms
  • 11,000 cases of acute bronchitis among children
  • 12,000 emergency room visits and hospital admissions
  • 850,000 days of work missed due to illness


This proposed rule, which is going through a public comment process, is the product of significant outreach to industry and other stakeholders.

As we work at EPA to cut down on mercury and other toxins from power plants, we’re also trying to reduce sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide through the “Clean Air Transport Rule” we proposed last year.

This rule requires 31 states and the District of Columbia to reduce their emissions of these two pollutants – which contribute to ozone and fine particle pollution across state lines – thereby significantly improving air quality in cities across the U.S.  Utilities can achieve these reductions by investing in widely-available technology.

Once finalized, this rule will result in more than $120 billion in health benefits each year. EPA estimates this rule will protect public health by avoiding:

  • 14,000 to 36,000 premature death
  • 21,000 cases of acute bronchitis
  • 23,000 nonfatal heart attacks
  • 1.9 million days of work or school missed due to illness
  • 240,000 cases of aggravated asthma
  • 440,000 cases of upper and lower respiratory symptoms
  • 26,000 hospital and emergency room visits


These numbers represent a major improvement in the quality of life for literally millions of people throughout the country – especially working families, children and older Americans.

While some argue that public health protections are too costly, history has repeatedly shown that we can clean up pollution, create jobs and grow our economy all at the same time.


Over the 40 years since the Clean Air Act was passed, the U.S. Gross Domestic Product grew more than 200 percent.  In fact, some economic analysis suggests that the economy is billions of dollars larger today than it would have been without the Act.


Simply put, the Clean Air Act saves lives and strengthens the American workforce. As a result, the economic value of clean air far exceeds the costs.  Expressed in dollar terms, the benefits of the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 alone are projected to reach approximately $2 trillion in 2020, with an estimated cost of $65 billion in that same year – a benefit to cost ratio of more than 30 to 1.

With legislation pending in Congress to weaken and gut this proven public health protection law, I urge this committee to stand up for the hundreds of millions of Americans who are directly or indirectly affected by air pollution.

I look forward to your questions.

Long-delayed rules for cleaner air

Anyone who, over the years, has followed the decimation of North Country lakes by fallouts of mercury and acid rain should read and appreciate this editorial on the Obama administration’s just-announced Clean Air Act rules. The Common Loons of northern New England and the Adirondacks would appreciate it.

EPA proposes tugh rules on coal-fired power plants

Only carbon dioxide is not among the emissions targeted by the new proposal. Read about Administrator Lisa Jackson’s decision here. Greenhouse gases? What greenhouse gases?

Let the EPA do its job, American Lung Association says

Pronouncements like this one hardly get any press attention at all because reporters are too damn busy seeking “balance” and paying attention only to the number of dollars in people’s wallets and how this regulation or that regulation would cost them in absolute dollars. Never mind the atmospheric costs of quality of life, public health, and the health of the very planet.

Here’s what the Lung Association says:

In a new report out today, Toxic Air: the Case for Cleaning Up Coal-Fired Power Plants, the American Lung Association finds that significant action now is needed to protect our public health.  The EPA needs to be allowed to do its job to safeguard us from the dangerous pollution from these plants.   CAP’s Susan Lyon has the story.

With a new proposal due from the EPA on March 16 on power plant toxics, this report makes the case that EPA needs to proceed to better protect our health.  This report also comes just as the EPA is being attacked by the right and in ascience-denying Congress, whose goal is to remove or lessen its rulemaking authority.

Our kids are being exposed to 386,000 tons of 84 dangerous pollutants currently ‘uncontrolled’ as they spew from power plants, with known deleterious effects.  These include:

  • Arsenic, lead, and other toxic metals;
  • Mercury;
  • Dioxins;
  • Formaldehyde and other chemicals known or thought to cause cancer, including benzene and radioisotopes;
  • Acid gases such as hydrogen chloride;
  • Radioactive materials, like radium and uranium.

Inside the Beltway, clean air is under seige

And the wrecking crew reads like a who’s-who of Republican polluter friends: Fred Upton and James Inhofe for starters. The NY Times explains it all in this lead editorial from today’s edition.

The hidden costs of fossil fuels

Someone’s got to pay them. Who will it be tomorrow? Who pays today? This article attempts to answer those and other questions.