Mercury Reduction Plan Calls for Downwind Policing

Seven states recently submitted a cleanup plan to EPA to further reduce mercury entering the states' waters from a range of pollution sources.

The states -- New York, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont -- seek to link violation of Clean Water Act standards to EPA's authority under the Clean Air Act to control mercury emissions. The plan, the Northeast Regional Mercury Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), was a collaborative effort between the New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission (NEIWPCC) and the states. This plan targets a 75 percent reduction in mercury emissions by 2010 and virtual elimination of mercury pollution in the region thereafter, officials said.

As part of the regional Mercury Action Plan adopted by the Northeast state governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers in 1998, state mercury reduction programs and regulations far exceed federal requirements, officials said. Northeast states have reduced mercury emissions from sources in the region by more than 55 percent overall, with many states exceeding 70 percent reduction since 1998.

However, mercury levels in fish are still too high to permit human consumption. Because more than 70 percent of the mercury impacting New England is currently imported from upwind air pollution sources, the states will not be able to solve this problem without stronger federal regulations, officials said.

"In order for our lakes and ponds to be restored completely, mercury pollution in New England, which comes mostly from out-of-region sources, must be reduced by 86 percent to 98 percent," said Ian A. Bowles, Massachusetts secretary of energy and environmental affairs. "EPA needs to make sure that the mercury reduction efforts in the Northeast region are matched in states across the country."

The current EPA Clean Air Mercury Rule will control mercury pollution from coal-fired power plants by about 70 percent and not until after 2020. The rule also allows for pollution trading, which can contribute to mercury "hot spots," according to Northeast environmental officials. Northeast states are requiring that 90 percent to 95 percent mercury control be achieved by 2012, without trading.

In conjunction with submitting the plan, the Northeast state environmental agencies, along with their partner interstate organizations, issued a report that documents progress to date on lowering mercury emissions and releases within the region. The report, "Northeast States Succeed in Reducing Mercury in the Environment," highlights innovative and effective programs that are resulting in tangible and positive improvements, officials said.

More information on the TMDL plan and the report can be found at

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