Guest Post: Sportsman Grateful to EPA for Reducing Mercury Pollution

Ed Perry is an aquatic biologist who retired in 2002 after a 30-year career with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, where he supervised the section responsible for protecting streams and wetlands. Since 2007, has traveled across Pennsylvania as an advocate for the National Wildlife Federation’s global warming campaign, educating hunters, anglers and conservationists about the effects of climate change on Pennsylvania’s fish and wildlife.

After 20+ years of study, the Environmental Protection Agency finally released the first ever rule to reduce mercury emissions.

I am a life-long fisherman, and my wife and two sons and I have fished and camped all over our great country. We’ve caught grayling and west slope cutthroat trout from high mountain lakes and had a delicious meal of fish over our night-time camp fire.

Fishing the Penobscot
Fishing the Penobscot/ photo by Alan Gregory
But my favorite stream in the entire country is right in my backyard, the Susquehanna River. My family has been floating the Susquehanna River for over 30 years, camping on the islands, and wading in the river, fishing for smallmouth bass. Those float trips are among the best vacations we have had. Unfortunately, the one thing we don’t experience on the river is cooking fish over the campfire.

Since the Susquehanna is down-wind from hundreds of coal-fired power plants, I know the fish are contaminated with mercury. In fact, mercury has contaminated the river so much that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania recommends eating only one meal of walleye and smallmouth bass per month in that reach of the river beginning at the New York border extending 200 miles downstream.

This year, for the first time, I will be taking my grandson fishing on the Susquehanna River. Like all kids, he will want to keep the fish he catches. But I will have to tell him to throw them back. There is no way I would subject that still growing little kid to something as toxic as mercury.

Frankly, it is hard to believe that up until this year, mercury pollution from coal-fired power plants was unregulated. Pennsylvania ranks 2nd in the country in pounds of mercury emitted from coal-fired power plants and we have 3 of the nation’s top 10 dirtiest power plants. This is one area where Pennsylvanians don’t want to be a leader.

Even though the toxicity of mercury pollution is well documented in the scientific literature, the coal industry and its allies have fought against sensible mercury regulations for decades. Frankly, I have had it with the tired refrain that new regulations will damage our economy, when in reality, it is our families, our kids, and those with health problems who are paying the real price for our inaction.
It is long past time that we implement the technically and economically feasible alternatives to unregulated mercury emissions. This is one sportsman who is grateful to EPA and this Administration for standing up to the fossil fuel industry.

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