HARRISBURG, Pa., May 18 /PRNewswire/ -- Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future (PennFuture) today called the response from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to PennFuture's request that DEP begin regulating poisonous mercury emissions from the state's power plants, "hopeful, yet disappointing." The DEP answer to the August 2004 request for rulemaking on toxic mercury comes on the same day Pennsylvania has joined with other states in suing the federal government for its failure to protect the public's health from mercury. "DEP's announcement that they intend to write regulations to control mercury is a great step forward for public health," said John Hanger, president and CEO of PennFuture. "But we are disappointed that DEP failed to join New Jersey in supporting specific policies that will reduce toxic mercury from our power plants by 90 percent." "We intend to respond with tough, specific regulations that Pennsylvania should adopt," said Charles McPhedran, senior attorney at PennFuture. "Pennsylvania's utilities are third in the nation in spewing toxic mercury into our air, streams and food. Pennsylvanians need mercury cleanup now." In August 2004, PennFuture was joined by health care professionals, other environmental organizations and labor, sporting and women's rights groups in filing a petition with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) asking the state to require power plants to reduce their mercury emissions by 90 percent by 2007. Since that time, the list of co-petitioners has grown to 50 including a number of faith-based organizations (http://www.pennfuture.org/MercuryPetition/MercuryPetitionersByGroup.pdf). "Governor Rendell can show leadership by adopting state regulations on mercury that genuinely protect the public health," said McPhedran. "He has a golden opportunity to take action just as New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Wisconsin are doing. Our children deserve this protection." "Together, all of the co-petitioners intend to create a climate where public health is paramount," said Hanger. "Many of our partners in this project, especially Sierra Club and PennEnvironment, have already launched major outreach campaigns to galvanize public opinion in support of strong regulations," said Hanger. In 2001, the Keystone plant in Shelocta (Armstrong County) had the highest releases of mercury and mercury compounds to the air of any electric utility plant in the country. In 2002, Pennsylvania utilities were third in the nation with 6,986 pounds of mercury and mercury compounds emitted into the air. In addition to its health and environmental effects, mercury contamination of Pennsylvania fish also has negative impacts for our fishing industry, which a report by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources estimates has a direct economic impact of $800 million each year. The mercury request was filed on behalf of PennFuture and its members, with the following initial group of co-petitioners: Pennsylvania State Building and Construction Trades Council, Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs, Pennsylvania Trout, Pennsylvania National Organization for Women (NOW), Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania Advocates, Women's Law Project, WomenVote PA, PennEnvironment and Sierra Club Pennsylvania Chapter. Documents from both DEP and PennFuture are available online at http://www.pennfuture.org.