Mercury Falling?

Tags: clean energy, Clean Energy Jobs, EPA, mercury

In December 2011, the EPA released the nation’s first toxic metal emissions standards. These changes require power plants to reduce emissions of mercury, arsenic, and cadmium.

This ruling comes on the heels of a mercury advisory issued for every Great Lake and almost every inland lake, river, and stream in Michigan. Mercury causes developmental problems in young children and infants if ingested by expectant mothers. This literally means that a family expecting a child in Michigan cannot be fed on fish caught in Michigan waters. This is a tragedy which the new EPA rules will fix over time.

Coal plants produce the majority of mercury pollution in the United States. The mercury still affects you, though, no matter how far from a coal plant you may live. Once emitted by power plants, it falls into lakes and rivers and is transmitted to humans when they eat fish from those polluted waters. Nowadays, "those polluted waters" means pretty much any water in Michigan.

Power plants will have four years to comply with the new regulations and, again, will be able to use existing and tested technology to do so. Many power plants have already installed pollution prevention equipment and many economists believe that more money will be saved in health costs than is spent to make the upgrades.

Though it can reduce much of the mercury emitted, even the new equipment can’t stop all mercury pollution. It is still important to develop new, renewable ways to produce our nation’s energy. Coal, as a power source, must be retired. As the new year begins – an election year, by the way – it will be important to support those who stand up for the new cost-saving, health improving standards. It will be especially important to stand up against those who do not.