Statement by Matt Prindiville, NRCM outreach coordinator
Good Morning. My name is Matt Prindiville and I speak on behalf of the Natural Resources Council of Maine and countless other environmental organizations – both in the state of Maine and across our great nation – that have opposed the EPA’s weak, industry-friendly proposal to regulate mercury emissions from power plants.
This issue is primarily about what has turned out to be the largest source of mercury pollution to Maine’s environment – coal. Coal naturally contains mercury and airborne mercury pollution is the natural byproduct of coal-fired power plants. There are roughly 1100 coal-fired power plants upwind of Maine. These power plants spew mercury-laden smoke into the air, which is carried by prevailing winds to our lakes and rivers where it builds up in the environment. When this mercury keeps landing on Maine and keeps building up – like it has for decades – you end up with some pretty contaminated critters!
Our fish are so contaminated that pregnant and nursing women, women who may get pregnant and children under 8 are advised by the Maine Bureau of Health to avoid eating any fish from our lakes and rivers besides one meal per month of brook trout or landlocked salmon. When your five year-old son asks you why he can’t eat the fish he just caught, you have to tell him because the people that run the government aren’t doing their job. They aren’t protecting us from neurotoxins like mercury contained in the smoke from out-of-state power plants!
The problem with mercury is that it’s an element. It is essentially permanent. It doesn’t get broken down, so it just keeps on accumulating in our environment. The problem with the Bush Administration EPA’s proposal is that it delays meaningful reductions in mercury emissions for decades, allowing industry to keep racking up record profits while continuing to dump mercury into Maine’s environment. If mercury contamination is now worse than it’s ever been, and you add another year of inaction and another one, the problem just keeps getting worse and worse and worse.
What brings this all home for me is that somewhere along the line, the consumers were forced into a situation that they didn’t have a say in. To achieve the 90% reductions in mercury emissions that we know are possible because that’s what modern plants are able to achieve…To achieve these 90% mercury reductions from coal-fired power plants, it would cost the average consumer between 1/10 and 1/50 of a cent extra per kilowatt hour. That averages out to be about 10 to 50 cents extra per month for the average Maine electric bill.
If someone had asked me, “Mr. Prindiville, would you be willing to pay an extra 50 cents a month to ensure that you and you’re children can eat the fish that you catch without worrying; an extra 50 cents to know that you won’t have to worry about the loons and osprey and otters that live outside your house being unable to reproduce because they’re so contaminated with mercury; an extra 50 cents so that your fiancé can order that tuna steak without worrying if she might – years later – have poisoned her baby inadvertently.” I don’t know about you but I would pay that extra 50 cents. The problem is that nobody asked me, and that I am still worrying. We all are still worrying, and we are all here to say it’s time for the EPA, the utility companies and the coal industry to come clean!