USA. PennFuture citizens call on State Senate to accept mercury rule

Friday, 01 December 2006


Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future (PennFuture) have called on the members of the Pennsylvania Senate to accept the rule recently approved by the Independent Regulatory Review Commission that will protect the health of children by reducing toxic mercury pollution made by the state’s coal-fired power plants. PennFuture decried the recent machinations by the leadership of the Senate Environmental Resource and Energy Committee to subvert the lengthy and legal public process that resulted in the adoption of the mercury rule developed by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). Despite support for the rule from 80 percent of all Pennsylvanians and an extensive two year process to adopt the new policy, Senators Mary Jo White (R-Venango) and Raphael Musto (D-Luzerne), Chair and Democratic Chair of the Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, yesterday issued a statement announcing their intent to continue to oppose the rule in the new session.

PennFuture regrets the continued opposition to the mercury rule led by Senator White. This opposition may have extended to a decision last week to end the legislative session on November 28 (rather than November 30, as previously scheduled), in the mistaken belief that the earlier date would allow legislative action to disapprove the rule in the new session that commences in January, 2007.

“This proposed action to oppose the rule in the new session is particularly poorly thought out, given the message the voters sent earlier this month,” said John Hanger, president and CEO of PennFuture. “Voters overwhelmingly supported environmental protection and clean up, and throughout the state, the candidates who won were those of both parties with clear pro-environmental voting records and positions.

“Furthermore, the voters could not have been clearer about their distaste for the politics-as-usual backroom deals that have characterized the Pennsylvania Legislature,” continued Hanger. “DEP Secretary Kathleen McGinty and Governor Edward Rendell waged a fair, principled and courageous campaign to adopt this rule vital to public health, and the public overwhelmingly showed their support for this action.

“Senator Musto, in particular, can now make clear that he stands with Governor Rendell and the people of Pennsylvania in favor of this reasonable and vitally necessary state mercury rule,” continued Hanger.

“It’s time for the Pennsylvania Senate to keep faith with the public and let this regulation become law,” continued Hanger. “Any attempt to disapprove the mercury rule in January when the new legislative session begins will fail in both the court of public opinion and in the courts of law. The Senate, the House, and Senator Musto can do the right thing, and represent the citizens – not the polluters – by stopping these fruitless efforts to defeat the rule.”

The genesis of the Pennsylvania rule was in August 2004, when PennFuture formally filed a petition with the Pennsylvania Environmental Quality Board (EQB) on behalf of 10 public health, sporting, women’s rights and environmental and conservation organizations, asking the EQB to enact a regulation requiring coal-fired power plants to reduce their mercury emissions by 90 percent. Today more than 100 organizations, including the Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs, the Pennsylvania State Nurses Association, the Pennsylvania Parent Teachers Association, the Learning Disabilities Association and the Pennsylvania Council of Churches, have joined in this vital effort.

Toxic mercury pollution from power plants threatens the health of women and their babies. More than 600,000 women of childbearing age nationwide have amounts of mercury in their blood over the level set as safe by the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Academy of Sciences. Unsafe levels of mercury in mothers’ blood and breast milk can interfere with the proper development of babies’ brains and neurological systems and evidence suggests that it may lead to learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder, problems with coordination, lowered IQs and even mental retardation.

PennFuture is a statewide public interest membership organization that advances policies to protect and improve the state’s environment and economy. With offices in Harrisburg, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and West Chester, PennFuture’s activities include litigating cases before regulatory bodies and in local, state and federal courts, advocating and advancing legislative action on a state and federal level, public education and assisting citizens in public advocacy

Last Updated ( Friday, 01 December 2006 )