Once again, the Bush Administration is rolling back another legal and statutory commitment in the Clean Air Act - this time to delay or even avoid reductions in toxic mercury emissions from each and every power plant in this country. This move is yet another assault on our environment, and another example of how this Administration insists on putting special interests ahead of public health. For the second year in a row the power industry is getting a holiday gift from the Bush Administration at the public's expense. In the name of "regulatory flexibility," the Bush Administration will delay the already late implementation of a requirement to cut mercury emissions by 70-90% in 2008, to some other point farther than necessary in the future. This means more lakes and streams will be contaminated, more fish will be tainted, and more unborn children will be exposed to dangerous levels of this potent toxic metal. What is most striking about this egregious rollback is that the technology to control mercury is feasible and available at reasonable cost now and in the next two years. (See the results below of an informal survey of companies working on mercury control technology.) -------- THE REAL STATUS OF MERCURY CONTROL TECHNOLOGY
December 3, 2003 Senator Jim Jeffords, Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, recently sent a letter of inquiry to several companies seeking information on the mercury emission control technologies that they produce for installation at coal-fired electric utilities. Responses from W.L. Gore & Associates, Apogee Scientific, ADA Environmental Solutions, Powerspan, and KFx, show with certainty that stringent control of utility mercury emissions in the range of 60-90%, depending on the technology, is economically feasible and technically achievable for even the dirtiest coal types. These technologies are available for application now and within the next two years. Two of the companies are confident their technologies could reduce mercury emissions from power plants by at least 80-90% from all types of coal combustion. One of these two technologies can achieve even greater than 90% capture of mercury from the harder-to-control western sub-bituminous and lignite coals. Three out of the five companies responding indicate that their technologies are currently available commercially, while the remaining two plan to enter the market in 2004 and 2005. These technologies will dramatically reduce capital and/or operating costs. Several of them will also produce significant economic co-benefits. One technology creates low-mercury coal fuel at a price comparable to untreated, high Btu coal, which the company says can help older coal-fired power plants meet proposed emissions standards without major capital costs that could be passed on to consumers. Two companies boast lowered disposal costs by reducing the amount of mercury residue that becomes solid waste. Another two systems have the ability to preserve the value of fly ash residue (often sold to cement manufacturers) from the post-mercury control waste stream. One company states that even for moderate facilities this can represent a savings of several million dollars per year. Another technology produces a valuable fertilizer co-product. A fourth system enables utilities to increase operating efficiency and heating value. Beside the economic co-benefits of mercury control, there are real environmental benefits as well. The informal survey results show that the vast majority of toxic mercury air emissions from utilities can be avoided now or in the very near future. They also show that emission reduction performance can be far more efficient than that called for in the President's Clear Skies proposal. Furthermore, many of these technologies have the ability to curb other air pollutants, such as particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, carbon dioxide, and heavy metals. Municipal and hazardous waste incinerators have already been reducing mercury emissions for two decades using technologies available to utilities. These companies feel they can meet the more stringent standards being debated, but without a clear mandate from the government on future mercury emissions requirements, it will be very difficult to increase investment in new technology research, development, and testing. However, as Dr. Richard Bucher of W.L. Gore & Associates states in his letter to Senator Jeffords, we remain committed to developing a cost effective technology that provides maximum protection to the air we breathe. New and demanding mercury regulation would create a significant new market for these and other emissions control technologies, and would provide incentives for their continual advancement. For further information about these mercury control technologies, please contact: Christopher McLarnon, Ph.D.
Vice President, Research & Development
Powerspan Corporation
New Durham, NH
(603) 859-2500 Michael Durham, Ph.D.
ADA Environmental Solutions, Inc.
Littleton, CO
(303) 734-1727 Ted Venners
Chairman and CEO
Denver, CO
(303) 293-2992 Dr. Richard Bucher
W.L. Gore & Associates
Elkton, MD
(410) 392-3300 Timothy Ebner
Apogee Scientific, Inc.
Englewood, CO
(303) 783-9599