Wednesday :: Dec 3, 2003

Bush About To Reward Coal Plant Operators By Endangering Women and Children

by Steve

To please its power plant campaign contributors once again, the Bush Administration is ready to issue weaker than anticipated regulations governing the release of mercury from coal fired power plants. The proposed regulatory levels now sought by the Bush Administration are far above what Christie Whitman proposed two years ago when she was head of the EPA. The proposal would expose the most vulnerable, especially pregnant women and children to levels of mercury significantly higher than a legal settlement envisioned between the federal government and environmental groups several years ago. The reason: a more stringent standard would cost coal-fired power plant operators too much money.

Officials at the Natural Resources Defense Council and National Wildlife Federation, who obtained the documents, said the proposals called for reducing power plant mercury emissions from 48 tons a year to 34 tons a year by 2007.

But a Power Point presentation that Whitman used in a December 2001 speech to the Edison Electric Institute indicated that current provisions under the Clean Air Act would require reducing those emissions to about 5 tons by 2007.

About one out of every 12 women of childbearing age has unusually elevated levels of mercury, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. More than 80 percent of U.S. states have some kind of warnings on consuming fish because of mercury.

"Mercury is important because mercury poisons the brains of babies," said Frank O'Donnell, director of the Clean Air Trust, a Washington environmental group.

O'Donnell likened the proposal to "another arsenic situation," in which the Bush administration initially proposed then dropped plans to ease a Clinton standard for arsenic in water.

"It's a situation where the Bush administration is caving in, in a most foolish way, to a special interest on a well-known toxic air pollutant," he said.

The Dec. 15 deadline for a maximum achievable standard for mercury emissions for power plants was required by a December 2000 legal settlement between the EPA and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

John Walke, the chief of the council's clean air program, said the proposal would come up with a mercury emissions standard in name only and instead rely on an unrelated 1970 provision. Under the proposal, power companies would have a cap on how much mercury they could emit, but they would be able to trade pollution credits, allowing one dirtier plant to buy emission reductions from another plant.

"This is so out of left field that I couldn't begin to dream this up, this is so lunatic," Walke said. "They have signaled quite rudely their intention to repudiate our agreement. It's clearly the most toxic thing they've done to the air and the American children."

The EPA's Web site says, "Methylmercury is highly toxic."

Another case where Bush has put the interests of his campaign contributors ahead of the public interest, in this case pregnant women and children.

Steve :: 12:02 AM :: Comments (0) :: Digg It!