Mercury is a trace element present in coal/oil that is emitted when coal is combusted for energy – Coal fired power plants account for 40% of all Mercury emissions in the USA.
Courtesy the North Carolina Conservation Network
They alerted me to this opinion piece in the News & Observer
North Carolina municipalities are demanding it. Other states are doing it. Now our state must impose maximum available control technology on all coal-burning power plants to reduce mercury emissions by 90 percent as quickly as possible.
Why? Because it is the best way to protect our most precious natural resource, the brainpower of our children.
Against the strong advice of the pediatric and public health communities, in 2005 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency passed a wimpy rule to reduce mercury emissions from coal-burning power plants 70 percent by 2018. The rule also allows a “cap and trade” process, which may produce local hotspots of mercury pollution.
Prenatal exposure at levels consistent with consumption of contaminated fish can lead to IQ loss, memory and attention problems, fine motor deficits and developmental delay. These changes are likely permanent.
Estimated costs to consumers are about $4-$10 per year.
This is a no-lose situation. Merury controls are easy to implement, cheap, and requires nothing other than the tweaking of already existing controls. The only reason not do this is knee jerk opposition to even sensible regulation on the part of powerful entities (check out the sweet astroturf on that website!) that have the ear of the federal government.
The NC Conservation Network is running a campaign to toughen the proposed NC law. Please comment if you live in NC.
Mercury regulation is a case where the EPA’s much maligned command and control regulation works better than cap and trade policies because mercury is in the unique position of being both a local and long range pollutant. Local pollutants have to be controlled at each source, so the Federal government’s proposed legislation is a bad idea and states are trying to do better.