Sunday, March 23, 2008

This story about mercury pollution is not new (date October 2007) but is still quite relevant and important. It's always worth remembering that at some point we'll arrive at some resolution on Iraq, and the U.S. economy will at some point bottom and begin its inevitable course to recovery, however we cannot say these same things about our environment. There is no guarantee that global warming will reverse, that pollution will decrease. It would be nice to think it will be so, but again, no one really knows what the planet will look like for our kids 50 to 100 years from now. It's this haunting thought that should stay with us as we head into November's general election.

As for the story on mercury, some segments:
As many as 600,000 babies may be born in the USA each year with irreversible brain damage because pregnant mothers ate mercury-contaminated fish, the Environmental Protection Agency says....Nationwide, more than 8,000 lakes, rivers and bays are compromised by mercury's toxic effects.
The $298-billion-a-year electric utility industry is the nation's largest source of mercury air emissions....[M]ercury from coal-burning power plants has risen, largely because there have been no federal limits on such emissions.
The electric power industry, which has plans to build an additional 153 coal-fired plants by 2030, says it is behaving responsibly. It is retrofitting old plants and building new ones with pollution-control equipment that will remove much of the mercury, with other pollutants, from flue gas.
Pew argues that in the waning days of the Clinton administration, the EPA legally committed the government to a more thorough cleanup as required by the Clean Air Act. Now, under pressure from industry, he says, Bush administration EPA officials have crafted their own interpretation of the law, giving power plants more time to meet less stringent emission goals.

EPA officials say that deep, rapid cuts in mercury emissions are unwarranted and too costly to the power industry and would produce nominal health benefits, because, in their view, most of the mercury deposited in U.S. lakes and streams comes from abroad.
That figure of 600K brain damaged babies born in the U.S. each year due to mercury contamination is just astounding. It's an extraordinary high figure period but even more so for a developed country like ours, and to think this figure is from Bush's EPA, meaning the true figure is likely much higher. Notice that Bush is not so outraged about this assault on the unborn, the wrecking of their brains in the womb. The silence is deafening and his EPA backs the businesses who wish to stall any effort to limit such emissions.

Oh sure, the electric power industry will say they're doing all they can to reduce mercury in the air, but these statements are not very honest. Any retrofitting of equipment that may eventually occur is because they're forced into doing so thanks to regulations that were likely fought by these same utilities. This deceptive word play and glossing over the ugly truth is much like Bush adamantly opposing children's healthcare in Texas during the 1990s, losing that battle, only for him to many years later boast that children's healthcare was passed while he was the state's governor.

Lastly, I have to laugh every time I read a quote asserting that much of the mercury problem here in the U.S. really stems from abroad. I simply request show me the proof. The acid rain problem in the Northeast was very much localized, having little if anything to do with China or India or Russia. Steps were taken to limit sulfur and nitrogen emissions emanating from utilities in the immediate region as well as the Midwest and what do you know, acid rain decreased significantly. The mercury problem is very much like the acid rain predicament meaning any talk of it being blamed on other countries is a dodge, plain and simple.

As the story cites, the Clinton administration's EPA had committed the government to reducing mercury emissions, but then GW came along and eight years later his EPA is still just "studying" the matter....

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