Diverse groups agree it is time to end pollution from coal-burning power plants
A coalition of environmental, hunting, fishing, and shooting enthusiast groups from across the state today called upon the state’s Congressional delegation to support a new national rule to drastically reduce mercury pollution from coal-burning power plants.
Ten local and statewide sportsmen’s groups joined with more than 300 groups from across the nation in signing a National Wildlife Federation (NWF) letter asking Congress to derail efforts to gut the Clean Air Act. The letter reads in part, “As hunters and anglers, we know how widespread mercury is in our environment, posing a danger to all who eat mercury-laden fish.” Mercury levels in Maine fish, loons, and eagles are among the highest in North America, and the Maine Bureau of Health has issued a statewide advisory recommending that pregnant women and young children limit their fish consumption due to mercury contamination.
EPA is expected to finalize the rule, which would force a 91% reduction in poisonous mercury emissions, later this fall. Coal-burning plants would have to begin installing existing, affordable pollution control equipment in 2015.
Matt Dunlap, Executive Director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, says, “The sporting community knows that a healthy environment is necessary not only to sustain our wildlife populations, but also to sustain our very existence. If we want to have places to fish and hunt for our kids, we need to control pollution now.”
“As a life member of the Maine Wilderness Guides, this issue is close to my heart,” says Bill Houston, who is the president of the board for the Natural Resources Council of Maine. “Maine has mercury and acid rain issues from air pollution emitted in other states. I applaud the Environmental Protection Agency’s efforts to give us this much needed strong standard, and the technology to cut mercury and other toxics in our air has long existed.”
Andy Goode, vice president at the Atlantic Salmon Federation, noted that, “Air pollution is a direct threat to our coldwater fisheries in Downeast Maine and across the state. It does not make sense to spend money restoring salmon and trout if we are just going to pollute their waterways.”
“This diverse coalition illustrates how broadly and how deeply this issue affects our wildlife and all of us as well, and I’m pleased to be working with this broad group of allies in this effort to stop mercury from poisoning us,” said Carol Oldham, Northeast Regional Outreach Coordinator for the NWF.
Maine health officials warn that fish caught statewide may contain unhealthful levels of mercury contamination and pregnant and nursing women, women who may get pregnant, and children under age 8 should not eat freshwater fish from Maine’s inland waters.
Mercury causes brain damage in humans and accumulates in species at ever increasing levels as it moves up the food chain from small fish to larger fish to humans. Children and pregnant women are particularly susceptible to mercury poisoning.
While some mercury exists naturally, the mercury that enters our environment comes primarily from coal-burning power plants outside of Maine, mostly in the Ohio Valley and other points west of New England. The plants have smokestacks hundreds of feet tall specifically designed to push emissions over local monitoring stations directly into the jet stream, from where it falls to Earth in rain, snow, and dust across the Northeast. Affordable technology exists to keep this poison from entering our food chain.
The EPA is now taking public comments on the proposed rule to remove 91% of smokestack mercury emissions starting in 2015. The Clean Air Act requires EPA to issue air quality standards for pollutants that harm human health and the environment, by limiting pollutants from industrial facilities, power plants, and vehicle tailpipes. Recently, several U.S. Senators and Representatives have introduced bills to handcuff, block, or delay EPA’s efforts to reduce mercury pollution.
Maine groups supporting this campaign:
- Maine Wilderness Guides Association
- Sportsmen’s Alliance of Maine
- Maine Atlantic Salmon Federation
- Maine Chapter of the Wildlife Society
- North Berwick Rod and Gun Club
- West Gardiner Rod & Gun Club
- Buxton Hollis Rod and Gun Club
- Fort Fairfield Rifle and Pistol Club
- Maine Path & Paddle Guides