environmental group tackles Americans over mercury pollution
By Colin Perkel
Published June 30, 2004
TORONTO (CP) - A Canadian environmental group has formally
complained to Washington about a proposed law it says will
leave millions of people in Canada exposed to mercury pollution
from American coal-fired power plants.
The complaint by the Sierra Legal Defence Fund - one
among many from both Canada and the U.S. to the Environmental
Protection Agency - notes that 38 per cent of airborne
mercury in the Great Lakes region of Canada comes from
Studies show mercury is a powerful nerve poison that
can cause brain damage and affect fetal and childhood
"The U.S. administration has either ignored its
own scientific experts on the risks mercury poses to children
and their mothers, or it simply doesn't care," Albert
Koehl, a lawyer with the group, said Wednesday.
Currently, about 1,100 American power plants emit about
43 tonnes of mercury a year with some of the worst offenders
close to the Great Lakes area.
Four years ago, the EPA indicated that forcing American
coal plants to adopt the best available technology to
reduce mercury emissions would result in a 90 per cent
reduction within three years.
Instead, the proposed law dilutes that aim significantly,
prompting charges from critics that it amounts to a major
concession by the government of President George W. Bush
to the powerful utility and coal-industry lobbies.
Environmentalists now fear U.S. coal-fired plants will
be able to continue to emit more than 13 tonnes of mercury
annually beyond 2018.
"The Bush administration's proposed rules for mercury
pollution from coal-fired power plants are shamefully
weak," said Koehl.
The American proposal also includes an emissions trading
system that would allow "dirtier" power plants
to buy credits from other plants and continue spewing
excessive amounts of mercury.
Agency officials said this week the EPA had received
almost 600,000 public responses to the proposal, most
arguing it's too weak.
The deadline for issuing the new rule is March 15.
In a submission earlier this year, Environment Canada
urged the EPA to tighten its proposed rule given the threat
to Canadians posed by mercury from the U.S.
The proposed rules "fall short of the emissions
reductions that are achievable with current and emerging
control technologies," Enviroment Canada said.
To combat locally created pollution, Ontario's Liberal
government has promised to shut down the province's coal-fired
power plants by 2007.
However, environmentalists argue Ottawa has failed to
live up to its international obligations to reduce mercury
emissions from Canadian coal-fired power plants.
© Copyright 2004 The Canadian Press