The most recent data from the Environmental Protection Agency reveals that from 1999 to 2005, mercury emissions from power plants increased more than 8 percent. That’s after several years of foot-dragging by the Bush administration, followed by a court ruling actually ordering the EPA to come up with new rules around mercury.
Still, as usual, the coal industry is fighting any proposed limitations to how much pollution they’re allowed to spew from their plants. On the day the EPA announced public comment for the new rule, one industry trade group, bemoaned the effort as an “extraordinary threat” to the electric utility industry, one that simply costs too much to implement.
Dr. O. Marion Burton, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, attended the rule announcement and had a ready reply: “If you think it’s expensive to put a scrubber on a smokestack, you should see how much it costs to treat a child over a lifetime with a birth defect.” In fact, mercury from coal plants causes an estimated 120,000 cases of childhood asthma, 11,000 heart attacks, and 850,000 days of lost work annually.