The EPA has never limited mercury emissions from power-plants--until now. The Bush Administration's EPA has issued the first ever regulations limiting mercury emissions from coal burning power plants; when fully implemented, mercury emissions will have been reduced by almost 70%. True to form, environmental activists are proving that the environment really has nothing to do with their activism.
Environment News Service
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said, "Instead of making polluters pay to clean up the mercury pollution they caused, the new Bush administration regulations will make children pay with their health ... and will drag out mercury cleanup for decades, putting several more generations of children at risk of mercury's dangerous health effects."
"Instead of making polluters pay," indeed. These are the first rules limiting mercury ever; what was the EPA doing about mercury during the eight years of the Clinton administration? The National Center for Public Policy Research reports that Carol Browner, who headed up the EPA during those eight years, never implemented any regulation of power-plant mercury emissions, but in the short time between George Bush's election and inauguration, she came up with "an expensive, technically infeasible mercury plan -- for her successor. It was an effort to trap Bush by giving him the choice of imposing a draconian policy -- or face condemnation by the left for supposedly being "weak" on the environment."
Leaving aside, for the moment, that the only real problem they have with the new regulations is that the Bush administration implemented them, what does the environmental left say they don't like? Is it the aggressiveness of the planned reductions? No, in fact they aren't sure that the available technology can keep up with the scheduled reductions.
Is it the overall reduction in tonnage of mercury emissions? No, the reductions are more than all but the most extreme activists could hope for. Nonetheless, the left is claiming that the Bush administration is "rolling back" mercury controls--even though these are the first ever controls--because extremists want a 90% reduction, though they're also claiming that the Bush EPA is aiming too high because even the 70% figure is unattainable. So what's the problem?
Compliance with these stringent new rules will be very expensive--so expensive that smaller, or more antiquated power-plants would be hard pressed to do so. In order to make it easier on plants that aren't able to install the necessary technology all at once, and yet still achieve the reduction goals, the EPA is using a standard method called "cap and trade."
That is, overall U.S. mercury emissions from power plants would be capped. Individual power plant operators would be given a "pollution allotment." They could not exceed their allotment unless they purchased a "pollution credit" from another power plant operation that had emitted less mercury than allowed.
The EPA says of its decision to use a cap and trade mechanism: "We do believe that a type of cap and trade approach will allow us to get greater reductions in mercury emissions at lower cost."
Emission reductions would be the same, less wealthy power-plants will have a longer time to accumulate the funds necessary to gear up for compliance, and wealthy plants will have a way to defray some of the costs of their compliance. Everybody wins, right? So, what is the problem environmental activists have with the rules?
They don't want C&T (cap and trade), they want C&C (command and control), a top-down, inflexible rule where every plant, regardless of their actual ability, must comply in exactly the same way, damn the consequences, no matter if vital power is denied to regions that need it because the plants must comply or close (coincidentally, another acronym for C&C).
Why does the left want C&C instead of C&T? Because it's the only thing they can find to complain about; they have sat on their hands for their entire existence and never implemented a single mercury control for power-plants. It is more aggressive than even they think can be attained and, worst of all, a Republican administration has actually done what activists only pretend to do; they have implemented rules that will achieve real results with a minimum of financial burden to power-plants (which everyone knows is ultimately a financial burden on their customers).
Update: On the lookout for scare tactics. The LA Times has an article headed Possible Mercury, Autism Connection Found in Study, though they admit "the study does not prove that mercury causes autism, cautioned the lead author, Raymond F. Palmer of the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio, but it provides a "provocative" clue that should be further investigated."
The main source of mercury that has generally been suspected of being connected with autism is not environmental, but is introduced directly into the body in the mercury-containing preservative thimerosol which was used in vaccines.
Update: Amy's right:
Because so little is truly known about the cause of autism, yet (mercifully) research levels are increasing, we're going to see many announcements of exciting new leads into the cause of autism. It may be inevitable that some of these new leads will be exploited by environmental alarmists in support of whatever they may be lobbying for at that particular moment, but very many of these researchers are nonpolitical. We just have to evaluate every study on its merits -- the hard way.
It is entirely possible that there is a connection between environmental mercury and autism, just as this study tentatively indicates; mercury is not known to be friendly to neurological processes. And it should be noted that the researcher was not giving his study too much credence, too early--the LA Times was. The LA times is not known for being friendly to neurological processes either.