Fri, 15 February 2008
Powerful in its toxicity, and dangerous in its neurological health effects, mercury pollution has been a focus of PennFuture initiatives for several years. The mercury pollution that threatens health is largely emitted from coal-fired power plants, and is considered to be more toxic than lead. These emissions accumulate in plants and animals like fish, which can be passed along as we eat them. The dangers from mercury are particularly high for developing babies and children.
Pennsylvania’s mercury pollution is among the worst in the nation thanks to the large number of coal-fired power plants here and in upwind states like Ohio. So bad, in fact, that PennFuture spearheaded a campaign to establish a state rule to dramatically cut mercury pollution from our power plants. Finalized in early 2007, Pennsylvania’s mercury regulation is a testament to the power of citizen advocacy, as a broad coalition of anglers, hunters, people of faith, medical experts, environmental groups, women's organizations, organized labor, and many others spoke out against the dismal failure that was the federal Clean Air Mercury Rule, and in favor of swift and aggressive state action. Pennsylvania's mercury rule requires coal-fired power plants to cut their mercury pollution by 80 percent by 2010, and by 90 percent by 2015.
Pennsylvania won a critical battle for human health and our environment. In mid-February 2008, our state victory was magnified as a legal challenge brought by Pennsylvania and 16 other states asserting the federal mercury rule was in essence illegal under the federal Clean Air Act was won in federal court.
In this podcast, PennFuture's Christine Knapp talks with Senior Attorney and Chair of PennFuture's law staff Charles McPhedran, who authored PennFuture's initial petition for the state's mercury rule. He describes the significance of the recent legal decision at the federal level, and explains how Pennsylvania's rule has taken on even greater importance in its wake.
For more podcasts on PennFuture’s initiatives on mercury, visit our archive by clicking here. There you can listen in to state and national experts. To support PennFuture's work on this and other critical issues to our health, environment, and economy, please consider a making a tax-deductible donation. As always, we welcome your comments. Simply send us an e-mail, or click on "Comments" below.
Thu, 16 November 2006
PennFuture takes a moment to pause today to thank all of YOU who've come together to help work so hard on the effort to pass a Pennsylvania Mercury Rule! Today, November 16, 2996, the Pennsylvania Independent Regulatory Review Commission (IRRC) voted 3 to 2 to approve new regulations proposed by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) which will protect the health of children by reducing toxic mercury pollution made by the state’s coal-fired power plants. The IRRC approval is the last regulatory approval needed before implementation of the rule. The legislature, however, could still attempt to kill the program in the lame duck session later this month.
This afternoon in Harrisburg, Mother Nature seemed to be smiling in recognition of the momentous decision. Not one, but two rainbows, seen in the picture accompanying this post, stretched across the sky, ending at the Capitol Building. Hey folks, we couldn't make this stuff up if we tried!
“We are pleased and gratified that the IRRC stood tall against the special interests and with the 80 percent of Pennsylvanians who support tough Pennsylvania specific regulations against toxic mercury pollution,? said John Hanger, president and CEO of PennFuture. “This issue is crucial to Pennsylvania families since our state’s power plants are the second biggest emitters of toxic mercury pollution in the country. Our congratulations and gratitude go to both DEP Secretary Kathleen McGinty and Governor Edward Rendell for their vision and courage on this issue. ?
“We urge the Pennsylvania legislature to keep faith with their constituents and let this regulation become law,? continued Hanger. “This rule has been thoroughly discussed in stakeholder groups, public hearings, and a period of public comment during the past two years. At every juncture, the rule was met with overwhelming support, including an unprecedented outpouring of formal public comments – nearly 11,000 filed, with only 37 in opposition.
“Some in the legislature want to nullify the regulatory process and overturn the clear wishes of their constituents,? continued Hanger. “That would be arrogance of the nth degree, and is exactly what the voters rebelled against at the polls earlier this month. We must not let the polluters succeed.?
“We urge the legislature to abide by the IRRC decision and let the mercury regulations become law,? concluded Hanger. “Surely protecting babies from brain and neurological damage from toxic mercury is a cause worth fighting for.?
The genesis of the Pennsylvania rule was in August 2004, when PennFuture formally filed a petition with the Pennsylvania Environmental Quality Board (EQB) on behalf of 10 public health, sporting, women's rights and environmental and conservation organizations, asking the EQB to enact a regulation requiring coal-fired power plants to reduce their mercury emissions by 90 percent. Today nearly 70 organizations, including the Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs, the Pennsylvania State Nurses Association, the Pennsylvania Parent Teachers Association, the Learning Disabilities Association and the Pennsylvania Council of Churches, have joined in this vital effort.
Toxic mercury pollution from power plants threatens the health of women and their babies. More than 600,000 women of childbearing age nationwide have amounts of mercury in their blood over the level set as safe by the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Academy of Sciences. Unsafe levels of mercury in mothers' blood and breast milk can interfere with the proper development of babies' brains and neurological systems and can lead to learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder, problems with coordination, lowered IQs and even mental retardation.
To do your part to ensure the rule becomes the law of the land, and that the legislature does nothing to scuttle the process at the last minute in the lame duck session, take action on our site.
Category:Mercury -- posted at: 11:56 AM
Mon, 24 July 2006
Earlier this summer, over one hundred citizen activists from throughout Pennsylvania traveled to the State Capitol in Harrisburg for a Joint Lobby Day for Health and the Environment. Members from PennFuture, the Pennsylvania Council of Churches, Sierra Club, Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs, Penn Environment, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Clean Water Action, Group Against Smog and Pollution, and many other organizations came together to speak to our elected officials about two pressing issues of concern to Pennsylvanians: a state rule to limit mercury pollution from power plants, and implementing the Pennsylvania Clean Vehicles Program.
Each day, the halls of the Capitol teem with well-paid lobbyists. While it is difficult for citizens to travel to Harrisburg regularly, events like this help raise the visibility and awareness of critical issues like toxic mercury pollution. Together with calls, e-mails, letters, visits back in the district, letters to the editor, rallies, and press events, we are able to effect meaningful and positive change on issues that affect our communities, health, economy, and the environment.
In this podcast, PennFuture's DJ Trischler reports from Harrisburg at the Lobby Day event. DJ speaks with Representative Dan Surra (D-75) from Elk and Clearfield counties, and Representative David Steil (R-31) from Bucks County. Both legislators have strongly opposed bills that were introduced in the House and Senate aimed at killing the efforts to implement a state regulation that will cut mercury pollution from our coal-fired power plants by 90 percent. It is somewhat disheartening to note that we attempted to get interviews with almost all of the legislators who are actively opposing the Pennsylvania State Mercury Rule, but none would agree to make a statement.
DJ also talks with Megan Hamm and Jared Andrews from Clean Water Action, about why they've gotten involved in the legislative process and in citizen activism. DJ wraps things up by talking with Jan Jarrett, PennFuture's Vice President, who emphasizes how critical it is for citizens, especially young people, to get involved in the political process as soon as possible, to make democracy work for all of us.
At the Lobby Day event, PennFuture released the results of a statewide poll conducted by Terry Madonna Opinion Research, that showed 80 percent of Pennsylvanians want a strong state mercury rule as soon as possible. View the poll summary here.
This week, Pennsylvania's Environmental Quality Board is holding three public hearings to get your input on the proposed state mercury rule. The comment period remains open until August 26, 2006. To take action, visit our web site or www.protectbabies.org. We need a huge outpouring of citizen action to support this critical rule, and to overcome the high-paid representatives of the utility industry who are working against it. For more information, e-mail us at pennfuture (at) podcast (dot) com.
Sun, 21 May 2006
The Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee held on May 2nd a hearing on SB 1201 that would prohibit the Department of Environmental Protection from adopting a regulation to require power plants to reduce their toxic mercury pollution by 80 percent in 2010 and by 90 percent in 2015. Unfortunately, the line up of witnesses was heavily biased toward industry's position on mercury.
Testifying was Dr. Jack Snyder, a member of the board of the Annapolis Center for Science-Based Public Policy. The Center receives most of its funding from the National Manufacturers Association (NAM), and its founder was a former NAM vice president. Exxon/Mobile is also a major Annapolis Center funder. Dr. Snyder regularly provides testimony in various forums in support of industry positions. For example, he provided testimony in New Jersey in which he offered, "From a scientific and medical perspective, there is no basis for the contention that exposure to MTBE causes objectively verifiable human health effects."
And he was singing the same song about mercury pollution asserting that U.S. power plants contribute only a small amount of the world's mercury pollution, that there is no evidence of hotspots and that there's no proof that mercury harms babies. He apparently has missed several facts: most of the mercury contamination in Pennsylvania originates from Pennsylvania, not international sources; 83 percent of Pennsylvania's mercury pollution comes from Pennsylvania power plants. He also apparently dismisses decades of scientific studies that confirm the links between exposure to mercury and impaired neurological development in children.
The rest of the line up consisted of George Ellis of the Pennsylvania Coal Association, Eugene Trisko, hired gun for the United Mine Workers and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Gene Barr of the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, and finally, Myron Arnowitt of Clean Water Action.
The industry testifiers made blanket assertions not based in fact, and unfortunately, the committee members did not challenge them. For example, George Ellis claimed that there is no evidence that burning coal harms people, and nobody on the committee pointed out the mountains of information about the death and illness caused by breathing the fine soot and the ozone caused by power plant pollution.
The senators specifically asked for, and received uncritically, scientific information from the non-scientists representing industry at this hearing. On the other hand, they vigorously challenged Myron Arnowitt's review of scientific studies that show that local mercury pollution results in local contamination, and that reductions in local emissions lead directly to reductions in mercury contamination in the environment.
The committee will hold another hearing on mercury. We hope next time, they will ask to hear from some of the many medical experts and researchers who have conducted studies on the health and environmental harms that mercury pollution causes who do not dismiss the dangers to women and babies.
Category:Mercury -- posted at: 2:24 PM
Thu, 20 April 2006
Pennsylvania's State Capitol is under siege. Mercury polluters are working the halls of the legislature to stop Pennsylvania from cutting this toxic pollution by 90 percent, even though mercury threatens the health of women and babies. You will hear exactly how in this podcast with expert Dr. Ted Schettler. We felt we needed to run this one again because it is so critical.
One would hope that lobbyists for mercury polluters would have gotten a cold reception from our legislators. But so far, too many elected members have rolled out the welcome mat to those companies that pump thousands of pounds of highly toxic mercury into our air, water and into us. The power companies not only pump mercury into our environment; they also pump lots of toxic dollars into the coffers of politicians.
Of course -- we can hear the politicians saying -- all that cash did not influence one legislator. Perish the thought.
But something made 121 House members and a number of senators of both parties initially agree to sponsor two companion bills, HB 2610 and SB 1201, which the lobbyists for power companies desperately want.
These bills would stop Pennsylvania from adopting a regulation requiring power plants to cut their toxic mercury pollution by 90 percent in order to protect women and their babies from exposure to high levels of mercury contamination. The bills prohibit Pennsylvania from moving ahead with its own rule and require the Commonwealth to settle for the illegal federal mercury regulation - which Pennsylvania and 13 other states have sued to stop.
In 2004, Pennsylvania power plants were the second biggest mercury polluters in the country, with only Texas' power plants spewing more. In
In reality, these bills guarantee that Pennsylvania power plants will NOT reduce their mercury pollution by 86 percent because many of the plants will buy mercury allowances under the illegal federal trading scheme, instead of installing available, affordable pollution control technology.
Trading is especially dangerous for a toxic substance like mercury, as communities near the power plants will continue to be exposed to unacceptably high levels of mercury contamination. The "opportunity to participate in a national emissions trading program for mercury..." is actually an opportunity to continue to be slowly poisoned at our own expense.
Mercury pollution controls are available and very affordable, as a Department of Energy official acknowledged last Friday on the public television show "Pennsylvania Inside Out" on WPSU. On the show, Tom Feely III of the National Energy Technology Laboratory said, "There is existing technology that has already proven to be able to take mercury out... That technology is relatively inexpensive on a capital cost basis compared to a scrubber... We don't anticipate -- just looking at some back of the envelope calculations that we've done -- that there would be a significant increase in electric utility rates."
During the last election cycle the utilities and the Chamber fertilized the political ground with at least $804,000 in campaign contributions. They are now reaping the harvest of that generosity.
But then, again, one would think that few legislators would relish going into the election season with their names on a bill that weakens protection for our most vulnerable citizens and draws the ire of Pennsylvania sportsmen and women.
The legislators who signed onto this bill made a political calculation in an election year, ranking the desires of the polluters above the public health of their constituents. The losers in the calculation are Pennsylvania's women and babies, the real casualties of the Siege of Capitol Hill.
Take action! Contact your legislators now to voice your dismay at these bills and your support for the DEP rule on mercury.
Wed, 29 March 2006
Protect Pennsylvania's Babies: Health Impacts of Mercury, an Interview with Dr. Ted Schettler, MD, MPH
In late 2004, PennFuture together with many other sporting, health, faith-based, conservation, and women's organizations (now numbering almost 70) petitioned the Pennsylvania Environmental Quality Board (EQB) to create a rule requiring coal-fired power plants in the Commonwealth to reduce their toxic mercury emissions by 90 percent. Power plants are the largest source of mercury pollution, and Pennsylvania ranks third worst in the nation for mercury emissions from power plants, and is home to the number one worst mercury polluter in the country (the Keystone plant in Armstrong County).
The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has moved forward in creating the draft rule, which is a significant improvement over the Bush Administration's federal rule (Clean Air Mercury Rule or CAMR), that many states including Pennsylvania have filed lawsuits to challenge. The proposed rule would result in mercury emission reductions of 80 percent by 2010, and 90 percent by 2015 from Pennsylvania power plants.
In this podcast, PennFuture's Heather Sage speaks with Dr. Ted Schettler, M.D., M.P.H., Science Director at the Science & Environmental Health Network, a national expert on environmental links to reproductive and developmental disorders, neurotoxicity, and other health problems. Dr. Schettler also works closely with the Collaborative on Health and the Environment, a nonpartisan partnership of individuals and organizations concerned with connecting the role of hte environment in human and ecosystem health. PennFuture is a partner with the Collaborative on Health and the Environment in Pennsylvania (CHE-Penn).
What can you do? Contact your state elected officials and voice your support for the Pennsylvania Mercury Rule.
Category:Mercury -- posted at: 7:23 AM
Thu, 9 March 2006
The Pennsylvania House of Representatives Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, chaired by Rep. William Adolph (R-165) held an informational hearing on mercury emissions management on February 23, 2006 in Harrisburg. PennFuture's Jan Jarrett was invited to provide testimony at the hearing. Others invited to testify were Kathleen McGinty, Secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection; Douglas Biden, President of the Electric Power Generation Association; Robert Wayland from the EPA Office of Air and Radiation; Dr. Terry Sullivan from the Brookhaven National Laboratory; Eugene Trisko, an environmental attorney representing the United Mine Workers of America and the Pennsylvania Coal Association; and Nathan Willcox, Clean Air Advocate with Penn Environment.
This podcast contains Jan Jarrett's testimony at the hearing. To listen to the hearing in its entirety (which is about an hour and a half), click here.
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