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Pelosi, Congressional Democrats Lead Fight to Control Mercury Emissions

Location: Washington, DC

Pelosi, Congressional Democrats Lead Fight to Control Mercury Emissions

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Congressmen Marty Meehan (D-MA), Tom Allen (D-ME), Henry Waxman (D-CA), and Jim Cooper (D-TN) introduced a joint resolution today to block the Environmental Protection Agency's mercury rule.

The rule, promulgated by the Bush Administration's EPA, would allow pollution to continue unabated for more than a decade beyond what the Clean Air Act requires. The House members were joined by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), who introduced a Senate companion to the legislation.

Democratic Leader Pelosi said: "President Bush's mercury rule is a gift to the big energy companies that helped put him in office. The Administration downplayed scientific evidence of the dangers of mercury and even let energy lobbyists write parts of the mercury rule. We should enforce the Clean Air Act and require all power plants to rapidly reduce mercury pollution, which is so hazardous to our children. Democrats will do everything in our power to stop this dangerous rule."

Mercury is a neurotoxin that bio-accumulates in the environment and passes up the food chain. In the Northeast, 84,000 newborns are at risk of mercury-related brain damage per year. Coal-fired power plants are a leading generator of man-made mercury emissions. Eating contaminated fish is the chief danger for human exposure, and it can be extremely unhealthy to an unborn fetus if ingested by the mother. The EPA issued its mercury "cap and trade" rule in March which would grant coal-fired power plants mercury allowances. Those mercury allowances could be sold, to other power plants, if emissions fall below the allowable levels.

Meehan said: "A recent study by the Biodiversity Research Institute found nine mercury hot-spots in the Northeast region, including a major zone north of Boston in Massachusetts and in southern New Hampshire. With the EPA reporting that one in six American women of child-bearing age has unsafe levels of mercury, it's outrageous for the Bush Administration to allow companies to continue to pollute water supplies with tons of mercury, which is a neurotoxin. This rule needs to be stopped in its tracks and that's what we intend to do."

"This weekend, millions of Americans will celebrate our nation's 229th birthday with a shorefront vacation," Allen said. "In virtually every state, they will be warned that mercury pollution may make the fish they catch dangerous to eat. In Maine and 16 other states, such warnings apply to every lake, river and stream. In its 1990 amendments to the Clean Air Act, Congress mandated a clear timetable to require that mercury be regulated as a hazardous air pollutant. Our resolution will direct the Bush Administration to obey the law and abandon its plan to delay mercury regulations for another decade."

Waxman said: "The Administration's mercury rule is a regulatory travesty. It fails to protect the public and the environment from toxic mercury emissions, blatantly ignores the Clean Air Act, lacks critical supporting analyses, and allows industry to avoid using available and cost-effective controls. Congress should insist on a strong and protective rule to reduce mercury pollution, as the law requires."

My home state of Tennessee has long been recognized as a sportsman's paradise with beautiful lakes and streams enjoyed by Tennesseeans and visitors alike," said Cooper. "Unfortunately, Tennessee is now also ranked as one of the worst states for mercury pollution. We must do everything we can to protect our health and wildlife, and we need to do it now."

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