Cost of Stopping Toxic Mercury Same as One Utility Executive's Golden Parachute, House Committee Learns
PennFuture Calls for Legislators to Protect Babies by Supporting Strong
Mercury Clean-up Rule
HARRISBURG, Pa., Sept. 12 /PRNewswire/ -- Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future (PennFuture) today said that a new study by the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) shows that the cost for Pennsylvania's power plants to comply with the state's proposal to cut toxic mercury pollution is about the same as the golden parachute given this summer to Allegheny Energy's chief financial officer. The NWF study, which is available at http://www.pennfuture.org, was provided to members of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, which held hearings on the impact of the mercury rule proposed by the Department of Environmental Protection. (Logo: http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20060425/PHTU035LOGO ) "The polluters have engaged in scare tactics, claiming real mercury protections would seriously harm industry and drive up customers' electricity rates," said John Hanger, president and CEO of PennFuture. "This report, which shows that the yearly cost will be between $29 - $38 million -- less than one percent of the income of the state's power industry -- proves that the industry's smoke-and-mirrors claims should be rejected. If Allegheny Energy by itself can give its CFO nearly $35 million as a golden parachute, the power industry as a whole can clearly afford to pay to protect babies from toxic mercury. "We expect the power industry to continue their game of misleading with statistics, using cost figures which include the cost for industry to comply with the Clean Air Interstate Rule, the federal regulation to clean up other pollutants," continued Hanger. "This is like buying floor mats for a new car, yet claiming the cost of the mats includes the cost of the car. The NWF report proves, however, that the additional cost to reduce toxic mercury by 90 percent is very small. "Our legislators now have no reason to oppose DEP's plan, since there will be little, if any, impact on the power industry's bottom line," continued Hanger. "Surely protecting babies from brain and neurological damage from toxic mercury is worth at least as much as one man's golden parachute." The committee holding the hearings is considering legislation in both the Pennsylvania House of Representatives (HB 2610) and the Pennsylvania Senate (SB 1201) that would stop this important regulation. These bills were introduced after a 20-month process involving industry, public health experts, environmental groups and myriad other organizations and individuals that resulted in DEP's decision to propose a new mercury rule. The rule is necessary because the federal mercury rule, which Pennsylvania and 15 other states, four Native American tribes and five environmental groups have challenged in court as illegal, could result in little appreciable mercury clean-up in Pennsylvania. While the federal rule would take 24 years to achieve less mercury clean-up, the Pennsylvania proposal would mean 90 percent clean-up by 2015. Toxic mercury pollution from power plants threatens the health of women and their babies. More than 600,000 women of childbearing age nationwide have amounts of mercury in their blood over the level set as safe by the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Academy of Sciences. Unsafe levels of mercury in mothers' blood and breast milk can interfere with the proper development of babies' brains and neurological systems and can lead to learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder, problems with coordination, lowered IQs and even mental retardation. Pennsylvania power plants are the second biggest emitters of toxic mercury pollution in the country. The Fish and Boat Commission has issued advisories that cover every lake, river and stream in the state that warn people to limit eating fish caught here. The genesis of the Pennsylvania rule was in August 2004, when PennFuture formally filed a petition with the Pennsylvania Environmental Quality Board (EQB) on behalf of 10 public health, sporting, women's rights and environmental and conservation organizations, asking the EQB to enact a regulation requiring coal-fired power plants to reduce their mercury emissions by 90 percent. Today more than 60 organizations including the Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs, the Pennsylvania State Nurses Association, the Pennsylvania Parent Teachers Association, the Learning Disabilities Association and the Pennsylvania Council of Churches have joined in this vital effort. PennFuture is a statewide public interest membership organization that advances policies to protect and improve the state's environment and economy. PennFuture has offices in Harrisburg, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and West Chester.
SOURCE Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future (PennFuture)
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