MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Minnesota Enacts Mercury Reductions Law

Published by MAC on 2006-05-15

Minnesota Enacts Mercury Reductions Law

ST. PAUL, Minnesota, (ENS)

15ht May 2006

After years of public pressure, Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, a Republican, Thursday signed a new law that will reduce the mercury pollution coming from Minnesota's largest coal-fired power plants, lowering their mercury emissions by 90 percent.

"This legislation is likely the most aggressive mercury reduction initiative in the country. Our lakes, our environment, and our health will benefit immeasurably. I am proud of the work of our Administration and all of the stakeholders in getting this legislation passed," the governor said.

Minnesota joins nine other states that are moving forward with mercury protections, including Maine, Georgia, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and New York. "Unlike the federal government, state leaders are doing the right thing for families by reducing mercury pollution," said Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club. "Now, it's up to other governors and state leaders to take similar action."

Governor Pawlenty's actions come after recent announcements by Governor Blagojevich of Illinois and Governor Granholm of Michigan of initiatives that will reduce mercury pollution in their states by 90 percent.

Most mercury comes from coal-fired power plants, where it falls into rivers and streams and then finds its way into our bodies via contaminated fish.

Mercury poisoning can cause severe learning disabilities and developmental problems, especially in babies and small children. In response to growing awareness about the dangers that mercury poses, and concern that the Bush administration plan does not do enough to protect women and children from this toxic pollution, Midwest governors are passing laws to protect residents in their states.

Minnesota's total mercury emissions are estimated at 3,340 pounds a year, with some 1,650 of these pounds from utility coal plants. Coal-burning power plants are the largest source of uncontrolled mercury emissions, both in Minnesota and nation-wide.

The mercury issue created headlines earlier this year when a recent study by the University of North Carolina in Asheville showed that one in five American women of childbearing age who were tested had unsafe levels of mercury in their bodies.

"The good news is that we already have the technology to clean up mercury pollution by 90 percent," said Pope. "These governors and state leaders are showing us that states can take the lead and solve these problems."

Mothers who are concerned about mercury can order a hair-testing kit to find out how much mercury is in their bodies, and download a list of which fish are safe to eat. An online calculator at Gotmercury.org shows how the fish one is already eating stacks up against a safe level of mercury as determined by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

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