Statement of Senator James M. Jeffords
Ranking Member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee

This mercury rule is just the latest assault on the Clean Air Act by President Bush. Simply put, this rule is blatantly illegal. At the behest of industry, the Bush administration has just endorsed the continued poisoning of children and pregnant women with mercury, a substance so toxic that it cause birth defects and IQ loss. This disastrous rule should not, and will not stand. Instead of a good faith effort to enforce and implement the law, the Administration has tried to torture the Clean Air Act into submission. This rule will allow more mercury into our environment than the current law. Current law requires EPA to control each power plant’s emissions of mercury and other toxics by 2008 at the latest. The Act requires each plant to use the "maximum achievable control technology" on every unit. That is the law of the land. Anything less means more pollution. Under this rule, hundreds of the oldest, dirtiest power plants won't even control mercury emissions for more than twenty years. That's what this rule gives us, more pollution for longer than the law allows. This rule is all the more shameful because the science is clear. The evidence of public health and environmental damage from mercury and other toxics is clear enough for action right now, not ten or twenty years from now. Now we find out that songbirds, like the Bicknell thrush which lives in the highest parts of the Green Mountains of Vermont, may be the metaphorical canaries in the coal mine. These birds don't eat fish contaminated with mercury. They eat insects that eat leaves. That mercury falls out of the air and settles across the landscape and our backyards. The Bush Administration response is to ignore this poisonous fallout and its damage. Their response is to do exactly what the polluters want - to delay controls. That is not what the law requires nor what the public deserves. We will fight it in the courts, we will fight it here in Congress and we will fight it in Statehouses across the nation. I condemn this rule in the strongest possible terms. Thank you.