A federal proposal to reduce mercury air emissions was roundly criticized by state environmental officials in a resolution passed in late April by the Environmental Council of the States (ECOS). The resolution urges EPA to toughen its proposal by making mercury emissions reductions faster and deeper.
Mercury, ECOS notes, is neurologically toxic, particularly for children. The group says EPA's December 2003 proposal is too weak, does not reflect readily available emissions reductions technologies, and is not consistent with provisions in the Clean Air Act.
ECOS members were among stakeholders who, together with EPA and industry, developed an earlier proposal that would have required 40 to 96% reductions in mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants by 2007. EPA nixed that deal, however, and substituted its new proposal, calling for either a 29% reduction by 2007 or a 69% reduction by 2018 (C&EN, Dec. 22, 2003, page 12).
Coal-fired power plants are the largest unregulated source of mercury air emissions. While the EPA proposal is supported by coal interests, it has generated lawsuits and thousands of critical comments from environmental activists, health officials, and state and local air regulators. Also, early in April, attorneys general from 10 states and 45 senators urged EPA Administrator Michael O. Leavitt to withdraw the proposal. EPA is under court order to finalize a long-delayed mercury regulation by the end of the year.