New Report Finds Michigan Power Plants
Emit 2,464 Pounds of Mercury Annually
Environmental and Public Health Groups Await Action by
Published September 8, 2005
LANSING—As Michiganders wait to see whether Governor
Granholm decides to regulate mercury emissions from the
state’s coal-fired power plants, a new PIRGIM (Public
Interest Research Group in Michigan) report shows that
Michigan power plants emit 2,464 lbs. of mercury annually,
according to the most recent data available through EPA’s
Toxic Release Inventory (TRI).
The report — “Made in the U.S.A.” — identifies which
states and localities nationwide have the most mercury
emissions from power plants and which power plants emit
the most mercury.
“Mercury pollution from power plants is serious business,”
said Jason Barbose, PIRGIM Field Associate. “Scientists
have found that just a gram of mercury, about a drop,
deposited over the course of a year was enough to contaminate
the fish in a Wisconsin lake.”
Mercury is a potent neurotoxin that can affect the brain,
heart, and immune system. Developing fetuses and children
are especially at risk; even low-level exposure to mercury
can cause learning disabilities, developmental delays,
lowered IQ, and problems with attention and memory. EPA
scientists estimate that one in six women has enough mercury
in her body to put her child at risk should she become
pregnant. Studies also indicate that mercury exposure
is associated with an increased risk of heart attacks
Power plants are the largest industrial source of U.S.
mercury emissions. Mercury pollution is so pervasive in
Michigan that the state has posted mercury-related fish
consumption advisories for every inland lake and all 2,199
miles of Great Lakes coastline. These advisories warn
people to avoid or limit their consumption of certain
types of fish.
PIRGIM’s “Made in the U.S.A.” uses 2003 data from EPA’s
Toxics Release Inventory, the most recent available, to
rank power plant mercury emissions by state, county, zip
code, facility, and company. Key findings include:
• Michigan ranked 14th nationwide in power plant mercury
pollution, emitting 2,464 pounds of mercury.
• Monroe County led the state in power plant mercury emissions,
with 770 pounds, 31 percent of the state’s total power
plant mercury emissions.
• DTE’s Monroe Power Plant was the largest power plant
mercury emitter in the state, with 683 pounds, 28 percent
of the state’s total power plant mercury emissions.
• The most polluting 15 companies in the U.S. emitted
more than 48,000 pounds of mercury in 2003, 54% of power
plant mercury emissions nationwide.
Under the Clean Air Act, sources of hazardous air pollutants,
including mercury, are required to install pollution control
technology to reduce these toxic emissions by the maximum
achievable amount. EPA acknowledged in 2001 that compliance
with the law would require reducing power plant mercury
emissions by about 90 percent.
In March 2005, however, the EPA issued regulations that
allow power plants to avoid the Clean Air Act’s maximum
achievable control technology (MACT) requirement. This
paved the way for a second, industry-favored “cap-and-trade
rule” that allows power plants to buy and trade the right
to pollute and delays even modest mercury reductions until
at least 2018. On August 10, Michigan joined 14 other
states in a lawsuit challenging the EPA rule.
Michigan's motion to intervene in the lawsuit came just
two months after Michigan’s Mercury Utility Workgroup
released its extensive final report and recommendations
to the Governor on how Michigan’s power plants can significantly
reduce mercury emissions. The report included utility
industry and environmental group consensus that Michigan
should exceed the weak federal rule and documented the
availability of technology to achieve 90% mercury reduction.
With the recommendations in hand, the Governor is expected
to take action to set more protective mercury reduction
standards for Michigan’s power plants. In 2002, the Governor
made a campaign pledge to phase out mercury pollution
from Michigan’s power plants.
“EPA is essentially saying that mercury from power plants
isn’t toxic,” Barbose said. “That’s an outrageous statement
that defies law and logic.”
“Fortunately, Governor Granholm can protect public health
by reducing mercury pollution by 90 percent,” Barbose
added. “By doing so, she would promote modern and clean
technologies, create new jobs, protect our fishing and
tourism industries, and take a huge step forward for Michigan
families who want to fish our waters without worrying