November 6, 2007

Senators Urge EPA to Approve Northeast Mercury Plan and Enhance National Mercury Pollution Standards

WASHINGTON, D.C -U.S. Senators Olympia J. Snowe (R-ME), Patrick Leahy (D-ME.), Judd Gregg (R-NH), John Sununu (R-NH), Bernard Sanders (I-VT), Susan Collins (R-ME), Joseph Lieberman (I-CT), Jack Reed (D-RI), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Christopher Dodd (D-CT) sent a letter to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Stephen Johnson this week to approve the Northeast Regional Mercury Total Maximum Daily Load cleanup plan. As part of the plan, the region requires enhanced federal guidelines for mercury pollution coming into the Northeast from other parts of the country.

In recent years, the Northeastern states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New York have drastically reduced mercury pollution from in-state power plants. Yet the region fails to meet current EPA guidelines because of the mercury pollution brought in from neighboring states. Today’s letter follows a similar plea made recently by the governors of the Northeastern states.

“The Northeastern states, including Maine, continue to be at end of the tailpipe of mercury- spewing coal-fired power plants in the Midwest,” said Snowe. “Maine has led the way in reducing mercury emissions within the state, but we must see strong action on the part of the EPA to reduce mercury emissions that enter our state from sources in other states. The petition from the region clearly identifies that our State simply can not do anything more. The lax approach by EPA in regards to our national problem has failed to protect the health of our children, Maine’s natural resources and the economies that depend on them.”

“Despite mercury’s toxic effects, special interests have been able to impose a do-nothing policy on the American people,” said Leahy. “Our region has long led the way in curbing mercury pollution, which is among the least-controlled and most dangerous poisons threatening pregnant women and children. Because mercury pollution knows no borders, we need a sensible national approach to protect Vermonters and all Americans.”

“Like other states in the Northeast, New Hampshire’s air quality is uniquely impacted by toxic emissions from coal-fired power plants in the Midwest, especially mercury,” Gregg said. “In spite of some gains made at the state level, mercury emissions still pollute New Hampshire’s waterways, contaminate fish stocks, and pose a significant health risk. Federal action is required, and I’m disappointed that the EPA has not more rigorously fulfilled its obligations under the Clear Air Act to reduce mercury emissions. As a first step, the EPA should approve the Northeast regional mercury plan, and it must also promulgate clean air regulations that benefit the environment, not dirty coal-fired power plants.”

“The toxicity of mercury to the health of humans and the environment has been documented time and again by scientists around the world,” said Sununu. “While state and federal regulations have made great strides combating high mercury levels in air and water sources, tougher federal standards are needed. Northeastern states have a plan to reduce mercury pollution and Administrator Johnson has the ability to implement these guidelines. I strongly urge him to put them in place.”

“Mercury is a toxin that is extremely harmful to children and pregnant women, in particular,” said Collins. “Maine’s waterways are threatened by emissions from power plants located in other states, yet the EPA’s current rules do little to address this serious problem. That is why I am pleased to join my colleagues in urging the EPA to approve the Northeast Regional Mercury TMDL to help reduce toxic mercury in our environment.”

“Connecticut and its partner states in the Northeast have stepped forward with a plan to remove from the region’s waters mercury pollution that is harming children and expectant mothers,” said Lieberman. “The least the EPA can do is to approve the states’ plan.”

“This is a national problem that demands a national response,” said Reed. “The EPA needs to lay out and enforce strict federal guidelines to prevent harmful pollutants like mercury from coming into the Northeast from other parts of the country.”

“Rhode Island is working hard to keep poisonous mercury out of our air and water, but our people are still suffering from pollution from Midwestern power plants,” said Whitehouse, a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. “The Bush administration needs to stop blocking our states’ progress on pollution controls, and I’ll keep fighting for higher emissions reductions standards to protect our health and environment and stop global climate change.”

“Pollution knows no boundaries,” said Dodd. “While Connecticut and other Northeastern states have reduced mercury emissions by 70 percent between 1998 and 2002, our efforts to combat this dangerous toxin will be undermined if the EPA does not take critical action to regulate the mercury pollution entering the Northeast from other parts of the country.”


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