I am writing to urge you to take prompt action to clean up mercury and other toxic air pollution from power plants. EPA’s current proposals permit far more mercury pollution than what the Clean Air Act allows, while at the same time fail to address over sixty other hazardous air pollutants like dioxin.
The toxicity of mercury has been proven. EPA’s own scientists recently released an analysis estimating that 630,000 infants born in the US each year are at risk of irreversible harm from mercury exposure in the womb. These risks include lowered intelligence, learning problems, and brain damage. In adults, mercury can cause irreversible damage to the brain, kidneys, and cardiovascular system, and is also known to reduce fertility.
The EPA and 43 states have now issued advisories warning people, especially women and children, to avoid or limit eating local fish because of mercury. Advisories also warn America’s 41 million recreational anglers that the fish they catch may not be safe to eat. Like pregnant women and children, subsistence fishermen remain at high risk from the effects of mercury-tainted fish.
This serious public health problem can be addressed, as the technology to clean up these plants is available and cost-effective. Annual mercury pollution from power plants could be reduced from 48 tons today, to just 5 tons by 2008. Greater demand for the technology and equipment that remove mercury from smokestacks will not only lower the cost, but would benefit US jobs and our economy.
I am also concerned that your proposal allows power plants to buy and sell mercury pollution credits. This kind of market-based mechanism to reduce pollution isn’t allowed for toxic substances and would permit some plants to continue to threaten the health of surrounding communities.
I urge you not to delay the relief our children and communities need from exposure to toxic power plant pollution, which remains completely unregulated to this day. The risks to the health of future generations of Americans, and the associated costs that will be borne by our families and communities, far outweigh the reasonable cost of prevention to utilities.