Leaders Call on EPA to Issue Stronger Mercury Rule
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.
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.
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
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.
expressed the hope that the EPA would use the extended comment period
to strengthen its mercury rule. They warned that they "remain
that the final regulations will nevertheless fail
to satisfy the mandates of the Clean Air Act's hazardous air pollutants
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."
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.
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."
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 countrys great pastimes. The strong
bipartisan support represented by this letter is a testament to
the strength of the American peoples 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
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.
Eddie Bernice Johnson
...and 171 other Members of Congress