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Despite evidence of the impact of mercury on children and public health, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette last month joined with 24 other state attorneys general in filing a lawsuit to scuttle new EPA regulations that would reduce mercury emissions from power plants.
EPA has set a Dec. 16 deadline for finalizing Mercury and Air Toxics Standards that would require coal- and oil-fired electric power plants to reduce mercury and other emissions by more than 90 percent.
Power plants are the largest source of airborne mercury emissions. When mercury settles into water it is converted by microrganisms into meythlmercury, an extremely powerful neurotoxin, which accumulates in fish and in those who eat fish.
According a recent Environment Michigan report that summarizes EPA data on power plant mercury emissions, in 2010, 80 percent of all airborne mercury pollution in Michigan came from the smokestacks of coal-fired power plants.
DTE Energy’s coal-fired power plants topped the list of heaviest emitters. The company’s Monroe plant released 660 lbs. of mercury last year, and was the 14th largest emitter in the nation.
The Belle River power plant in China township emitted 335lbs, the St. Clair plant in East China Township released 236 lbs, and the Trenton chanel power plant released 172 lbs. According to Environment Michigan a drop of mercury is enough to make the fish in a 25 acre lake unsafe to eat.
Then pregnant women eat mercury-contaminated fish, their children sustain permanent developmental damage and have reduced motor control, ability to pay attention and IQ.
According to a recent report issued by Environment Michigan, one in ten American woman now have blood mercury levels that are high enough to put their children at risk of brain damage if they become pregnant.
Schuette, however, has argued that the new rules are unacceptable because they would cause electric rates to increase.
“The new Michigan has to be about jobs and paychecks,” Schuette told the reported Sunday on data from the Department of Labor which shows that environmental regulation was only responsible for .3 percent of the layoffs in 2010.
And in fact, reducing the effects of mercury pollution may end up helping the economy.
According to EPA the nationwide implementation of new emission standards would avoid up to 17,000 premature deaths, 850,000 missed days of work, and 5.1 million days when people must restrict their activities each year, saving as much as $140 billion in health care costs each year.
A 2005 study by the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, Harvard Medical School and Albert Einstein College of Medicine found that mercury-induced intelligence loss costs the U.S. $8.7 billion in lost productivity each year.