Wednesday, April 25, 2007

NJ Apellate Court Backs DEP's Tough Mercury Rule

New Jersey citizens won a significant victory over mercury emissions and now the State can go after not only coal fired power plants and waste incinerators, but now includes iron and steel smelters.

TRENTON, New Jersey, April 23, 2007 (ENS) – In a unanimous decision, the Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey has affirmed the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection's regulations to protect people from the impacts of mercury emissions from iron and steel melters.

The decision, released by the court April 13, allows the state to move forward with its efforts to address four of the largest in-state sources of mercury - iron and steel melters, coal-burning power plants, municipal solid waste incinerators, and medical waste incinerators.
The Steel Manufacturers Association, a national association representing iron and steel melters, and Gerdau Ameristeel, of Raritan, the owner of two New Jersey facilities, challenged the regulations. They claimed that the requirements were too stringent, but the court disagreed, finding that the state had acted well within its “broad authority to issue health-based regulations.”

Iron and steel melters, the largest New Jersey-based source of mercury emissions, emit an estimated 1,000 pounds of mercury into New Jersey's environment every year.

The full ENS article is here.

And NJ Attorney General hails the victory. From Legal Newsline;

New Jersey Attorney General Stuart Rabner says his office recently cleared a major legal hurdle in defending the state's regulations on mercury emissions.
"This decision confirms the state's authority to protect the health of our citizens by enacting tough rules to reduce dangerous mercury pollution," Rabner said.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

I Am Back! NE States Band Together to Pressure Midwest Mercury Emissions

The big news in mercury emissions while I was gone on a job is the gang of seven Northeast states that have gathered together to pressure D.C. to regulate mercury emissions in a new way that diminishes the inbound mercury into their areas lakes and streams from midwest and western states. They have cleverly used the Clean Water Act to enact a new Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) which is a maximum amount of mercury that a body of water can take in and still meet Clean Water Standards. This could conceivably force new national standards for mercury emissions from all airborne sources. We will of course be following this TMDL and its effects in the coming weeks.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Minnesota Power's Clay Boswell Energy Center Begins Mercury Emissions Upgrades

Having followed the CAMR and its various state alternatives for several months we now begin to see the fruits of this labor. Utilities across the nation will begin to install pollution control devices to reduce mercury emissions as well as other pollutants. Clay Boswell in Grand Rapids, MN announces this week their $200 million project.

I particularly like the pride in Al Hodnik's voice as he lets the residents in his area know of the improvements coming soon. This is what it is all about, making the improvements to continue providing reliable power with minimal environmental impact.

Monday, April 9, 2007

New Mexico Joins Other States - Tougher Than Fed Mercury Emissions Standards

New Mexico was talking tough and now they are backing up the talk with actions. This excerpt from The Santa Fe New Mexican.

New Mexico's mercury emissions standards, which primarily impact coal-fired power generating plants, are now officially tougher than those set by the federal government.

The New Mexico Environmental Improvement Board recently adopted new mercury regulations proposed by the New Mexico Environment Department to cap mercury levels allowed in emissions. The federal Environmental Protection Agency established a less restrictive cap and trade program, which allows higher mercury emission plants to purchase credits from cleaner power plants.
“New Mexico ─ along with other states ─ insisted that the federal EPA’s trading program allows mercury emissions from power plants that are harmful to human health and the environment,” said New Mexico Environment Department Secretary Ron Curry. “The Environment Department’s regulations put in place protections so New Mexico residents do not have to breathe in harmful neurotoxins that pose great health risks for residents, especially children.”

The full article can be read here.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Minnesota Takes Big Step Toward Statewide Mercury Emissions Legislation

Minnesota's MPCA got federal approval yesterday to go forward with their statewide mercury emission legislation. There are still a few steps to go before it becomes law but this announcement means they can seriously start moving on it.

Excerpt from Minneapolis - St. Paul Star Tribune;

...The MPCA will spend the next year meeting with stakeholder groups to develop a plan to meet the ambitious goals, the agency said in a release.

The objective is to cut Minnesota's mercury emissions from 3,350 pounds a year to 789, spokesman Sam Brungardt said. Coal-fired power plants will account for 1,200 pounds of cuts under a Mercury Reduction Act approved by legislators last year. The MPCA still has to figure out how to cut about 1,400 pounds of emissions.

Minnesota is the first state to aim for statewide pollution limits for mercury, under the goals approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The full Star Tribune article can be read here.

Philippe Grandjean - Trying To Make the World Safer, & Maybe a Bit Smarter Too

When one chooses a specific topic to blog on you can assume it is something they feel strongly about. As you research your topic you are introduced to others that share your interest and it helps you feel that collectively you may be making a difference. This post is about one of those chance introductions.

Philippe Grandjean is a scientist who has dedicated his life to studying the effects of chemicals in our environment on human brain development. Mercury emissions have been tied to abnormal brain development and people like Philippe are quantifying those effects and working to help set scientifically based limits on mercury emissions.

A couple excerpts from a Boston Globe exposé follow;

...Nobody knew then that excess mercury in fish could harm unborn children. "It was a shock," he said, and it changed his career goals. "I later decided to work on environmental health and preventive medicine instead of becoming a clinician."

Today Grandjean, 57, is an adjunct professor of environmental health at Harvard School of Public Health. He has dedicated his life to studying the effects of environmental chemicals on the developing human brain.
Now Grandjean is studying relationships between low-level exposure to chemicals and a host of children's diseases. Such links are notoriously difficult to prove, but Grandjean is convinced he is seeing one. In a December 2006 article in the journal Lancet, Grandjean proposed that exposure to low levels of various environmental chemicals during pregnancy may be causing a "silent pandemic" of neurodevelopmental disorders in the growing brains of children.

These disorders include autism, attention deficit disorder, mental retardation, and cerebral palsy, but Grandjean believes the bigger issue may be a subtle erosion of IQ. He cites studies showing that kids exposed to low levels of environmental toxins have lower scores on intelligence tests and more behavior problems than their unexposed peers. The research is not yet conclusive, says Grandjean, but he said it doesn't have to be to protect human health.

"We have the tradition of looking at chemicals as if they are innocent until proven otherwise," he says. "In my mind as a physician it does not make sense."

It seems to me there is more autism and ADHD cases now than before, but is it due to the chemicals we have been emitting into the environment over the years, or is it just better understanding of these conditions and better diagnostics? I don't know the answer to that question, but I am glad that people like Philippe are on the case. I strongly suggest you read the full article and get to know this remarkable man a little better yourself.