Expected Rollback Of Mercury Pollution Controls A Public Health Danger

December 2, 2003
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(2 December, 2003 -- Washington)  Despite speculation that the EPA is poised to announce a damaging policy decision on the control of mercury pollution from coal-fired power plants, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Michael Leavitt today addressed EPA employees and members of the press on his commitment to cooperative decision-making.  The pending mercury decision is the very antithesis of Leavitt's so-called cooperative process.

"Environmental Defense shares Administrator Leavitt's stated commitment to cooperative problem solving," said Environmental Defense senior policy analyst Michael Shore.  "But EPA's pending mercury decision will fly in the face of good public health policy.  It's a bad ruling and there's nothing collaborative about it."

"There is no question that finding common ground is critical in addressing the nation's pressing public health and environmental problems," said Dr. John Balbus, a physician and director of the Environmental Defense Health Program.  "Unfortunately, EPA in recent years has abandoned opportunities to make sensible environmental progress.  Every extra pound of mercury put out by power plants in this country will stick around in the environment and add to the health risks our children face.  This decision favors pollution over solutions and exemplifies bad stewardship."

In drafting its mercury policy, EPA:

(1) disbanded a collaborative effort among divergent interests to discuss different viewpoints and concerns,
(2) acted contrary to reasonable public policy by severely limiting technical analyses of policy options reflecting a range of mercury pollution reduction levels, and
(3) prepared to take action at odds with sound science by proposing a system to trade emission credits of mercury - the first time in our nation's history that a toxic air pollutant would be indiscriminately traded.