Friday, December 29, 2006

New York Finalizes New Mercury Emissions Laws

From The Post-Journal

Power plants in New York state will have to meet new regulations to decrease the amount of mercury emissions from coal-fired plants.

Read the full article here.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Oregon Moves Closer to Final Approval

From The Oregonian

There is only one coal-burning power plant in Oregon but the new regulations are the toughest in the western portion of the United States. Any new construction in the state would have to comply as well.

"I'm glad that Oregon is going beyond the standard set by the EPA," commission Vice Chairman Bill Blosser said Friday.

The commission, which sets policy for the state Department of Environmental Quality, voted 3-1 for a mercury reduction plan that was written and then rewritten by DEQ staff after the agency received more than 2,000 public comments.

Read the full article here.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

EPAs Cement Kiln Ruling May Trigger Larger Debate on Agency's Authority to Self-Initiate a Reconsideration of Its Rules

From (subscription required) Excerpt follows;

EPA's recently released rule to control air toxics from cement plants includes a first-time notice of reconsideration that legal experts say may be unlawful because it could allow the agency to circumvent a court order that required the agency to issue the rule.

An environmentalist also notes that the Clean Air Act provides no authority for EPA to self-initiate a reconsideration of its rules.

If successful, EPA could employ the strategy in future rulemakings where it is required to meet court-ordered deadlines but wants to provide a way to give agency staff more time to review -- and possibly alter -- requirements contained in the final rule, these sources say.

In this case, EPA had to finalize a maximum achievable control technology (MACT) rule for Portland cement plants by Dec. 8, according to a consent decree imposed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The rule has been subject to years of litigation, and the court remanded it back to the agency because it failed to include mercury requirements. The agency never acted on the remand, and environmentalists went back to court last year to impose the deadline.

In the final rule, EPA set a numeric mercury limit for new cement kilns and is also requiring that existing facilities ban the use of fly ash as a feedstock if purchased from utilities that use sorbent to control for mercury, because that increases the mercury content in the fly ash. The partial fly ash ban was suggested by the cement industry at an 11th-hour meeting with White House and EPA officials, even though the ban was formally opposed by the coal waste industry in their comments on the rule.

But at the same time, the agency is proposing to reconsider both of those issues, as well as the limit it set for total hydrocarbons at new plants in the final rule.

You can subscribe and get the full article here.

More on EPAs Recent Action Involving Cement Plant Mercury Emissions

From Mercury News

It is hard to see how the recent legislation can meet the requirements of the courts orders. But the debate continues days after passage.

James Pew, a lawyer with Earthjustice in Washington says, "The EPA decided to allow every cement kiln to continue to emit as much mercury as it likes," (sic)

Keith Barnett, an EPA environmental engineer who helped craft the mercury rule says,"We determined that what cement kilns are currently doing meets the minimum requirements under law," Barnett said. "This is a judgment call that we have to make when we evaluate each (pollutant) source category."

The estimated annual emission of 58 pounds from a cement factory in Alpena, Mich., rose tenfold after its operators began measuring the emissions, according to Pew.
Cement kilns are required to report mercury emissions to EPA's Toxic Releases Inventory, but the reports can be estimates instead of measurements. Environmentalists say some plants that voluntarily began measuring their mercury releases found amounts 10 times greater than their previous estimates. A cement plant in Tehachapi, Calif., reported having emitted more than 2,500 pounds of mercury in 2004, the most in the country. Here are the reported mercury releases of some other plants in 2004:

_Blue Circle/Lafarge, Harleyville, S.C., 260 lbs.
_Ash Grove Cement, Midlothian, Texas, 150 lbs.
_Rinker Portland Cement Corp., Miami, 106 lbs.
_Giant Cement, Harleyville, S.C., 100 lbs.
_Holcim Inc., Midlothian, Texas, 60 lbs.
_Holcim Inc., Holly Hill, S.C., 33 lbs.
_TXI Operations, Midlothian, Texas, 30 lbs.
_Lafarge Corp., Sugar Creek, Mo., 26 lbs.
_Medusa Cement, Clinchfield, Ga., 18 lbs.

Read the full article here.

Mercury Emissions Affecting Arctic Wildlife

From CBC News Canada

Scientists meeting in Victoria, BC are calling for Canada to take the lead in negotiating an international treaty to control mercury emissions.

Lars-Otto Reiersen, executive secretary of the Arctic Council's Arctic monitoring and assessment program, said securing an international treaty to control mercury emissions is a priority for his group.

Read the full release here.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Did They? or, Didn't They? Cement Kiln Mercury Emissions Continue Unchecked!

There are certainly different points of view floating throughout cyberspace today on whether EPA shirked its duty under the law to limit emissions from portland cement kilns. They did act on all yet-to-be-constructed (new) kilns, but failed to limit existing kilns in any way. Some see this as not following court orders. Read the following articles and see where you fall.

From the Environmental News Service - Full article here.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, signed a rule late Friday night that fails to control mercury pollution from any currently operating cement kilns, some of the nation's worst mercury emitters.

"We have two big problems here," said James Pew, an Earthjustice attorney. "One problem is the massive amounts of mercury that cement kilns are being allowed to emit. The other is an administration that thinks it is above the law."

From the Detroit Free Press - Full article here.

The federal government has set limits on airborne mercury emissions from cement kilns six years after a court order required them, but they don't apply to existing plants.

Once fully in effect, the rules announced Monday will prevent 1,300 to 3,000 pounds of mercury nationwide from escaping into the atmosphere each year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said. Mercury can damage the nervous system and cause developmental problems in children.

Am I missing something here? Are there lots and lots of "new" portland cement kilns coming on line? This rule does nothing to limit the "grossly underestimated" 6 TONS of mercury emissions currently coming from cement kilns each year.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Illinois Mercury Emissions Law Finalized Today

From the Illinois Government News Network

The Joint Commitee on Administrative Rules, a bipartisan oversight group unanimously approved a landmark rule regarding mercury emissions in the State of Illinois.

“Today’s actions on mercury pollution are a tremendous victory for all of us who care about protecting children’s health and the environment,” said Howard Learner, Executive Director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “Illinois is now a national leader in stepping up to reduce mercury pollution from coal plants by about 90% by 2009. Combined with measures underway in other Midwest states, Illinois actions will go far towards reducing mercury in the Great Lakes and our inland lakes and rivers.”

Read the full news release here.

Monday, December 11, 2006

New CEM Data Released as Colorado Mulls State Mercury Emissions Options

Denver Post

Just when Colorado was in the midst of considering stricter mercury emissions than the Federal program allows, new monitoring data suggests the mercury emissions in the state may be higher than previously reported.

The new emissions data were submitted to the state air-pollution control commission in November. The commission is considering, for the first time, placing limits on the mercury that coal-fired power plants can release. A decision is expected in late January.

The monitors found that Comanche was discharging the equivalent of 3.9 pounds of mercury for a set amount of heat produced from coal and that Pawnee was emitting 9.9 pounds.
In reports to the federal Environmental Protection Agency, Xcel had estimated Comanche emitted 2.7 pounds and Pawnee 3.5 pounds.

"We believe the (continuous emission-monitoring system) data is the most accurate, and it's how we plan on demonstrating compliance in the future," Magno said. Tri-State Generation officials, however, said the new systems are "not 100 percent reliable." "We're still evaluating it and strategizing what will work best for us," said Barbara Walz, environmental services manager for Tri-State, which serves Colorado, Nebraska and Wyoming.

Read the full article here.

Georgia's Mercury Emissions Plans Taking Shape

From the Gwinnett Daily Post

The Environmental Proection Commitee is sending its recommendations out for public comment, and although most are happy to see stricter controls, some are not quite sure it goes far enough.

“We are very pleased with Georgia’s aggressive approach,” said Jim Stokes, president of The Georgia Conservancy.

But several environmental advocates said they weren’t fully satisfied with the proposal.
For one thing, the rule would exempt the state’s three smallest power plants, located in South Georgia’s black water region.

Read the full article here.

Illinois Takes Final Step Tomorrow

From the Illinois Sierra Club's Blog - Dec 7th

The last step in the long fight to cut Illinois mercury pollution hopefully comes Tuesday, with the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules of the General Assembly votes on Blagojevich's plan, now approved by the Pollution Control Board.

Come watch in person -

10:30 AM, Tuesday, December 12th
James R Thompson Center, Chicago
16th floor, Room 503

Visit their Blog.

An Amen From Connecticut

Editorial in the Hartford Courant - Excerpt Below

The federal government ought to be setting lower limits for mercury and other pollutants. Lacking that leadership, however, Connecticut and other states that push for tougher-than-federal standards - in mercury emissions, automobile exhaust and greenhouse gases - are setting the right example.

Full editorial here.

Strength in Numbers - The Battle Over Mercury Emission Trading

From the Christian Science Monitor

The sheer number of states planning stronger mercury emission controls may ultimately thwart Federal plans to initiate a Mercury Cap and Trade program.

"What we're seeing is a critical mass of states restricting trading in such a way that it really imposes a significant impact on EPA's national trading program," says S. William Becker, executive director of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies, a Washington trade group representing state and local air-quality agencies. "States are sending a strong message that mercury emissions trading is not, and should not be, a centerpiece of any federal mercury- control program."

But EPA says no.

EPA officials say they're not worried.

"Based on everything we know, we are confident there will be a robust and workable cap-and-trade system, given the number of states we believe are going to participate," says William Wehrum, acting assistant administrator of the EPA's Office of Air and Radiation.

The full article can be read here.

Michigan Center Criticizes Gov. Granholm Over Mercury Emission's Plans for the State

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy

She must be thinking only of Michigan'ers in her comments. Like many reports from think tanks etc. the conclusions are just not supported by the facts.

"Only about 2 percent of the 4 tons of mercury deposited annually in Michigan is the result of emissions from in-state utilities," said Diane S. Katz, the Mackinac Center’s director of science, environment and technology policy."

If Minnesota felt the same way then Michigan mercury deposits would rise, but Minnesota has a broader concept of what mercury emissions mean. It is not just for the folks within your particular state, it is for the good of everyone downwind and around the world.

Read the full article here.

Monday, December 4, 2006

GE, BP and Wal-Mart - Green Companies? You Decide!

Whole Life Times - by Charles Shaw

Mercury emissions, urban sprawl, toxic waste, and many other societal maladays are discussed in this stimulating article by Charles Shaw, based on his interview with renowned "green" business consultant Joel Makower. It is a head scratcher because it makes one stop to think and perhaps readjust their concepts of what (and who) is "Green". This is a must-read article for anyone with an environmental concience and an open mind.

Accompanied by a press kit from General Electric’s new “Ecomagination” division, the wonderbulb rests cozily inside a bright green recycled cardboard sleeve covered with big, overlapping words like “sustainability,” “commitment,” “environment” and “conserve.” A corn-fiber string affixed to the packaging attaches a square of biodegradable fiber embossed with the GE logo and embedded with wildflower seeds, along with a little slip of rough, seemingly hand-made paper that bears a note encouraging you to plant the fiber and watch the seeds “burst into beautiful flowers.”

A second slip of paper bears a less lyrical message. “Warning. Lamp contains mercury.”
So when they market a product that contains mercury as “eco-friendly,” it raises the larger issue of diminishing standards. In their defense, GE spokesperson Allison Eckelkamp had at the ready an EPA document on mercury, “Is It True That CFLs Contain Mercury? Why and How Much?” which explains that “CFLs present an opportunity to prevent mercury emissions from entering the environment because they help to reduce [by 77 percent] emissions from coal-fired power plants that produce the electricity required to power the bulbs.” No one doubts this is better, but it’s not a “green” light source.

Please post your comments on this article as I really want to know how others feel on this.

Why Not Kentucky?

The Courier Journal

As reported earlier here in Hg-ATME, Tennessee Senator (R) Lamar Alexander questioned the federal CAMR with respect to its appropriate toughness. Now some folks in Kentucky are asking why not here?

Just before Thanksgiving, Tennessee's U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander asked a question we should be asking in Kentucky.

He wanted to know whether the federal government's rule on mercury emissions is strong enough to protect the health of Tennesseans and the environment of the Great Smoky Mountains.

See this Op-Ed piece from Louisville.

Friday, December 1, 2006

PennFuture Calls For State Mercury Rule Adoption - End Of Opposition


The folks at PennFuture, who initiated the State campaign for tougher Mercury emission legislation a few years ago, are calling for the end of opposition.

PennFuture regrets the continued opposition to the mercury rule led by Senator White. This opposition may have extended to a decision last week to end the legislative session on November 28 (rather than November 30, as previously scheduled), in the mistaken belief that the earlier date would allow legislative action to disapprove the rule in the new session that commences in January, 2007.

“This proposed action to oppose the rule in the new session is particularly poorly thought out, given the message the voters sent earlier this month,” said John Hanger, president and CEO of PennFuture. “Voters overwhelmingly supported environmental protection and clean up, and throughout the state, the candidates who won were those of both parties with clear pro-environmental voting records and positions.

Read the full article here.