From the Office of Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi
 

Congressional Leaders Call on EPA to Issue Stronger Mercury Rule

June 23, 2004

Washington, D.C. -- House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and a bipartisan group of 180 Members of Congress today challenged the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to go back to the drawing board in the coming months and to issue a final rule that better protects Americans from the health and environmental dangers caused by airborne mercury emissions.

"We urge you to meet the requirements of federal law and to act decisively in addressing the urgent threat that mercury pollution poses to our nation's public health," the letter stated.

The bipartisan letter effort was led by U.S. Reps. Jim Cooper (D-TN) and Tom Allen (D-ME), as well as Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), Betty McCollum (D-MN), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Hilda Solis (D-CA) and Henry Waxman (D-CA). More than 20 Republicans also signed the letter.

The lawmakers sent their letter in response to proposed regulations by the EPA that would reduce mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants by only 29 percent by 2010, with additional reductions by 2018. The Bush Administration's proposed rules have been met with widespread public and Congressional criticism for failing to adequately address the risks posed by mercury pollution. Because of strong opposition to the proposal, the EPA has since extended the time available for public comment. Reportedly more than 500,000 public comments have been submitted, the largest response in EPA history.

House members expressed the hope that the EPA would use the extended comment period to strengthen its mercury rule. They warned that they "remain concerned…that the final regulations will nevertheless fail to satisfy the mandates of the Clean Air Act's hazardous air pollutants provisions."

The letter further said: "We are disappointed by the EPA's continuing failure to take into account both its own analyses and the potential presented by existing technology" that would make larger mercury reductions possible. In particular, the letter urges the EPA to consider the recommendations of its stakeholder advisory group and to conduct "a thorough review of existing technologies to reduce mercury emissions by the maximum extent available."

Earlier this week, 470 sportsmen's groups from 34 states joined a letter circulated by the National Wildlife Federation calling on EPA to consider the impact of mercury on children, wildlife and the sportfishing economy before finalizing its mercury rule.

"These letters are a call to action," said National Wildlife Federation President and CEO, Larry Schweiger. "The 1.1 million hunters and anglers represented by these sportsmen's groups want clean lakes and streams now. They want a strong mercury rule that protects the future of fishing for generations to come."

Charles Gauvin, President of Trout Unlimited, the nation's largest trout and salmon conservation organization and one of the organizations that co-signed the NWF letter, stated that "America's lakes and rivers have unacceptable levels of mercury which are impairing people's ability to partake in one of our country’s great pastimes. The strong bipartisan support represented by this letter is a testament to the strength of the American people’s feelings that this is a significant issue."

The House letter was signed by members representing 38 states, including members from the nine states that are hit hardest by mercury pollution: Michigan, Maryland, Florida, Illinois, South Carolina, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Tennessee.


The following is the full text of the letter:

June 23, 2004
Administrator Michael O. Leavitt
Environmental Protection Agency
Ariel Rios Building
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20460

Dear Administrator Leavitt,

Over the last several months, your agency has received numerous letters from members of Congress, including from many of the signatories to this letter, urging the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reconsider its proposal for the regulation of airborne mercury emissions.

We appreciate your recognition of the many concerns expressed by the public and by Congress, and we support your subsequent commitment to conduct "additional analysis." We hope that this further review will lead to a stronger final rule.
We remain concerned, however, that the final regulations will nevertheless fail to satisfy the mandates of the Clean Air Act's hazardous air pollutant provisions. As you undertake further study, we urge you again to meet the requirements of federal law and to act decisively in addressing the urgent threat that mercury pollution poses to our nation's public health.

Mercury is a known hazardous air pollutant with serious, well-documented human health and ecological effects. Evidence further indicates that mercury pollution is alarmingly widespread. In February, your own agency doubled its estimate of the number of newborns exposed to unsafe mercury levels, from 320,000 infants a year to 630,000. In March, EPA and the Food and Drug Administration issued a joint advisory warning pregnant women and children to restrict their consumption of certain types of fish because of mercury concerns. Forty-four states have issued warnings that fish caught in their waters are unsafe to eat. The presence of these high levels of mercury in fish has a disproportionate impact on the health of certain ethnic groups who tend to consume more fish than the general population. Even more at risk are certain indigenous groups who rely on subsistence fishing to supply a significant portion of their diet.

Fortunately, aggressive action to control mercury emissions can have significant and rapid ecological and human health benefits. For example, regulatory efforts in Florida to reduce mercury emissions from incinerators and other non-power plant combustion sources have succeeded in substantially lowering the concentration of mercury found in local fish and waterfowl. A study in Wisconsin also found that reduced deposition of mercury produced significantly lower mercury levels in fish.

We believe that significant national reductions in mercury emissions are also attainable at a reasonable cost. Existing technology can control mercury emissions within Clean Air Act deadlines, and full-scale demonstration projects have shown that such technologies can achieve substantial reductions in mercury emissions. EPA's Office of Research and Development also recently released a study finding that existing pollution control technologies can result in greater mercury reductions years sooner than EPA has currently proposed.

We are disappointed by the EPA's continuing failure to take into account both its own analyses and the potential presented by existing technology. We sincerely hope, however, that the further analyses you have pledged to conduct during the extended rule making process will include a thorough review of existing technologies to reduce mercury emissions by the maximum extent achievable. In particular, we urge the EPA to analyze the full range of mercury control options recommended by the stakeholders advisory group and use the appropriate models necessary for conducting a comprehensive analysis.

Once you have completed this review, we call upon you to issue a supplemental proposal and subsequent final rule by the March 15 2005, revised deadline that meet the requirements of section 112 of the Clean Air Act.
We look forward to working with you on this critical issue.
Sincerely,

Nancy Pelosi
Jim Cooper
Tom Allen
Raul Grijalva
Eddie Bernice Johnson
Betty McCollum
Jan Schakowsky
Hilda Solis
Henry Waxman
...and 171 other Members of Congress



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