New Mercury Limits Protect Wildlife and People Alike!

Power plant in Morro Bay, CA via kafka4prez/flickr
Today, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized new air pollution standards that will result in the first-ever national limits on the amount of mercuryspewing from the nation’s coal-fired power plants.

Twenty plus years in the making, the new pollution limits on power plants will cut mercury emissions by 91%, reduce acid gas emissions 91%, and significantly cut arsenic, lead and nickel emissions.

Mercury Standards a Long Time Coming

The announcement is a tremendous victory for people and wildlife. National Wildlife Federation’s effort to curb mercury air pollution started back in September 1999 when we released Clean the Rain, Clean the Lakes: Mercury in Rain Is Polluting the Great Lakes (pdf)

The report warned of mercury’s potency as a neurotoxin that can cause neurological and brain damage at low levels in people and reproductive hazards in wildlife.

Excerpt from NWF’s 1999 mercury report:

The Clean the Rain Campaign…will press for the control and eventual elimination of mercury emissions that are contaminating the rain. It will call for the implementation of the following actions…

Coal-fired power plants must cut and eventually eliminate their combustion of coal (a major source of mercury, as well as smog and acid rain-producing pollutants). 

New Rules Will Protect Children, Improve Health, Create Jobs

Each year, EPA’s new air toxic pollution rules will prevent 11,000 thousand of premature deaths, 4,700 heart attacks, 130,000 cases of childhood asthma and 6,300 cases of acute bronchitis. And it will prevent mercury exposure to children that can adversely affect their developing brains – including effect on their ability to walk, talk, read and learn.

The rules will also provide employment for thousands. The updating of older power plants with modern air pollution control technology will support 46,000 new short-term construction jobs and 8,000 long-term utility jobs.

And as NWF has documented, the new pollution rules are also a huge present to wildlife. Mercury pollution belching out of power plants settles in our lakes and rivers where microscopic organisms convert the inorganic mercury into methylmercury. This form of mercury accumulates up the food chain in fish and then other into other animals when they eat fish. As a result, species from the common loon to the river otter to the Florida panther are impacted by mercury.

Read NWF’s report Game Changers: Air Pollution, a Warming Climate, and the Troubled Future for America’s Hunting and Fishing Heritage that shows how mercury, carbon dioxide, and other air pollutants are directly impacting numerous species, including black ducks, moose, and walleye, that are revered as part of our country’s angling, hunting and conservation heritage.

Over the last year, thousands of NWF members and supporters have continued the campaign started in 1999. They have attended public hearings, signed postcards, made phone calls, and sent over 50,000 messages supporting the EPA’s new efforts on mercury and pushing back against polluters attempts in Congress to stop these new air pollution protections.

So join NWF as we thank the EPA for taking action to protect your kids and wildlife from the dangers of mercury and toxic air pollution. Together, we can all breathe a little easier.

Learn more about mercury pollution >>