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

Sep 12, 2006, 01:00 ET from Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future (PennFuture)

    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, 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
     (Logo: )
     "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
     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)