Environmentalists want tougher mercury rules
John McCarthy - AP
July 24, 2006
COLUMBUS, Ohio - A new Ohio rule reflecting changes in the federal
regulation of mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants should go
further than the Bush administration requires, activists said Monday.
The rule from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency must be in
place by year's end. It would require coal plants to reduce mercury
emissions by 86 percent by 2018, reflecting the target set by the U.S.
That's not enough, said Jack Shaner, a lobbyist with the Ohio
Environmental Council. Ohio coal emits more mercury and other
pollutants than coal from other states and should have more stringent
regulation, Shaner said.
Mercury from smokestacks can settle in waterways and can get into
fish. Those who eat fish contaminated with mercury are at risk for
cerebral palsy, seizures and other illnesses, said Dr. Ted Schettler,
science director for the Science and Environmental Health Network.
"It's easily absorbed from intestinal tract and into the bloodstream.
In pregnant women, it easily crosses the placenta and easily enters
the brain of the fetus," Schettler said.
The state should reduce mercury emissions by at least 90 percent, as
five other states have done, Shaner said. The Ohio EPA originally
proposed a 90 percent reduction, but Gov. Bob Taft's administration
decided to go with the lower rate, EPA Director Joe Koncelik said.
Taft consulted with the state development department and had to
consider all Ohio industries, including manufacturing, in making his
decision, spokesman Mark Rickel said.
"There is no analysis to demonstrate that the (greater) reduction
would help Ohio's environment greatly. But in the short run, it could
have a negative impact on our competitiveness," Rickel said.
Taft gave in to pressure from the coal and electric utility industries
to allow power plants to continue to use Ohio coal, Shaner said.
"It seems he's got to accommodate everyone but the public health,"
The decision to go with the lower reduction figure is crucial to the
future of Ohio coal, said Mike Carey, president of the Ohio Coal
Association, a trade group.
"We need to have a fair, level market. We're already hurt by our
transportation costs and sulfur costs," he said.
In 2010, Ohio power plants that meet the 66 percent reduction target
for that year can begin selling credits for the percentage by which
they beat that figure to other plants that don't meet the standard.
The latter can use the credits instead of installing controls.
Mercury emissions should not be added to the list of pollutants
allowed in the "cap-and-trade" practice because they are too toxic and
can settle in concentrated amounts, or "hot spots," Shaner said.
The program has worked in the trading of credits for nitrous oxide and
sulfur dioxide, whose pollution is measured in tons, and should work
for mercury, whose emissions are measured in ounces, Koncelik said.
"Cap-and-trade can work and it works very well," said Koncelik, citing
reductions in acid rain. "It has proved to be hugely successful."
The Ohio EPA has taken other steps to reduce mercury emissions, such
as putting controls in steel mills, removing switches from cars before
they are junked and collecting medical thermometers that contain
mercury, Koncelik said.
ON THE NETPrint Friendly Page
Ohio Environmental Protection Agency: http://www.epa.state.oh.us
Ohio Environmental Council: http://www.theoec.org
Science and Environmental Health Network: http://www.sehn.org
Ohio Coal Association: http://www.ohiocoal.com