Adventures with Mercury Manchin and His Sidekick Electric Portman

The polluter parade of attacks on the Clean Air Act just keeps marching in Washington, DC.  This week, it is expected that Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Rob Portman (R-OH) will introduce a new omnibus air polluter bill.  The legislation is designed to delay and overturn the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) first ever power plant mercury pollution control standards, stifle new carbon pollution limits, and squelch the agency’s ability to control the hazardous waste leftover from burning coal.   

Coal-fired power plants are the single largest source of mercury contamination in the U.S, amounting to about 50 percent of emissions affecting humans and wildlife. The pollution settles on lakes, rivers and forests where it exposes fish and other wildlife and makes its way into the food chain.

The common loon in our northern lakes, fish and other wildlife are feeling the damaging effects of toxic mercury from coal-fired plants.  Speak up in support of the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed limits on mercury pollution from coal-fired power plants. Take action on action on mercury here .

Here is a sampling of what the bill would do:

  • Courtesy

    Delay reducing mercury emissions until 2020 and, after that date, substitute EPA’s scientific judgment on the necessary pollution reduction limits with industry friendly standards. The new EPA proposed air toxic limits would reduce mercury emissions from power plants burning coal by 91%. Among other terrible things, the uncontrolled release of mercury damages children’s brain development, reducing their IQ and their ability to learn.  And as the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) documented in our Game Changers report, mercury pollution impacts wildlife and pollutes our nation’s lakes, streams, and rivers resulting in numerous state fishing advisories.  Read a blog on the topic here.

  • Delay and limit EPA’s ability to reduce carbon pollution from power plants.  Instead of allowing the EPA to develop limits on the uncontrolled carbon pollution currently belching from existing power plants (as slated for July of this year), the bill would let polluters off the hook by having power plants only perform annual tune-ups through 2020. Read a blog on the topic here.
  • Stop proposals on how to best dispose of  waste created from burning coal (coal ash) and classify it as non-hazardous. Coal ash disposal sites release toxic chemicals and metals such as arsenic, lead, boron, selenium, cadmium, thallium, and other pollutants at levels that pose risks to human health and the environment.  Read about coal ash here. 

In sum, the bill is polluter politics at its most brazen.  Reports are that the legislative proposal, at the behest of the Senators, was drafted by American Electric Power (NYSE: AEP).  According to a recent Ceres report (see page 34), AEP is the country’s largest utility emitter by tonnage of both mercury and carbon dioxide. AEP is also the owner of eleven of the most highly hazardous coal ash waste facilities located in OH, WV and KY.

Since 1999, AEP has made just under $3M in campaign contributions.  In 2010, Senator Manchin received AEP contributions totaling $25,700 and AEP’s PAC donated $5,000 to Senator Portman’s  campaign. AEP also spent over $10M in lobbying Congress in 2010.