HARRISBURG, Pa., May 17 /PRNewswire/ -- John Hanger, president and CEO of Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future (PennFuture), hailed today's vote at the Environmental Quality Board (EQB), authorizing the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to move ahead with regulations requiring cuts in toxic mercury pollution from coal-fired power plants in Pennsylvania. This vote came just one day after the inspector general of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a report calling the proposed federal rule - which opponents of the Pennsylvania regulation are advocating - unlikely to provide sufficient protection to avoid risking babies' brains and neurological health. (Logo: http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20060425/PHTU035LOGO ) DEP will now publish the proposed regulation in the Pennsylvania Bulletin which will trigger a 60-day public comment period. DEP will also hold three public hearings - one each in southeastern, southcentral and southwestern Pennsylvania. In the fall, a final version of the rule will be published, with final approval of the rule expected by November. "The EQB acted in the interests of Pennsylvania's women and children and our anglers by voting to approve a mercury regulation which will require real reductions in toxic mercury pollution," said Hanger. "It is critical that Pennsylvania sets its own mercury rules, since the illegal federal mercury rule will not clean up mercury pollution until at least 2030, and even then there are no guarantees of cleanup. Pennsylvania women and children deserve better protection and DEP's plan provides the certainty that our own power plants will finally clean up." DEP's proposed rule requires power plants to cut their mercury pollution by 80 percent by 2010 and 90 percent by 2015. The federal rule sets up a trading system that allows power plants to purchase pollution allowances instead of installing pollution control technology to actually clean up, a scheme that is illegal under the provisions of the Clean Air Act that prohibit trading of toxic pollution emissions. Such a trading system would lead to toxic hotspots in areas where power plants buy allowances instead of cleaning up, exposing local communities to continuing high levels of mercury contamination. The most recent state-of-the- art studies of mercury pollution have demonstrated that about 70 percent of mercury that falls on an area comes from local and regional sources. Legislation has been introduced in both the Pennsylvania House and Senate to prohibit DEP from adopting a mercury rule tailored for Pennsylvania and requires the state to fall back on the illegal federal rule. The bills falsely claim that the federal rule will reduce mercury pollution by 86 percent by 2018. But because of the trading scheme, there are no guarantees of Pennsylvania power plants making substantial cuts in pollution. The Congressional Research Service has reported that because of the trading system, the federal mercury rule will achieve only a 70 percent reduction in mercury emissions by 2030. "Pennsylvania has the nation's second highest levels of mercury pollution," continued Hanger. "That needs to change. We need a strong mercury rule for Pennsylvania to guarantee a good start for all of our children and to get the mercury out of our waterways and fish." 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)