U.S. Water News Online
MILWAUKEE -- Wisconsin has joined a list of states suing
the federal government's environmental policies, challenging new
regulations they say fail to protect children and expectant mothers
from dangers posed by mercury emissions.
In announcing his approval of the lawsuit, Gov. Jim Doyle said the
Bush administration has cowed to big business with new guidelines for
power plant emissions that could allow 19 states to increase mercury
emissions in the next five years by setting caps that are higher than
The New Jersey attorney general's office is taking the lead on the
lawsuit. The eight other states involved are California, Connecticut,
Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York and
The Sierra Club applauded Wisconsin for being the first Midwest
state to sue. "We hope Governor Doyle takes this opportunity to help
call on other Great Lakes and Midwest states to join Wisconsin," said
Eric Uram, the club's regional representative.
Mercury settles in waterways and accumulates in fish. In people
who eat those fish, the toxic metal can cause neurological and
developmental problems, particularly in fetuses and children.
The suit criticizes the EPA for exempting power plants from having
to install the strictest emissions control technology available. That
technology would cut mercury pollution by 90 percent, according to
the New Jersey attorney general's office.
The EPA issued a brief statement saying it "is confident in the
legal foundation of the rule-making and plans to vigorously defend
the rule." When the bulk of the states sued last month EPA
spokeswoman Cynthia Bergman said the government has already taken
steps to control mercury emissions from other sources and that the
rules represent a new set of controls on "our last significant source
Wisconsin has some of the toughest mercury laws in the country,
requiring all power plants to cut emissions by 40 percent by 2010 and
by 75 percent by 2015. The Environmental Protection Agency rules aim
to cut mercury emissions from coal-burning power plants by nearly
half within 15 years.
"We're showing that we can have high environmental standards while
using progressive, economically viable technology," Doyle, a
Democrat, said at a news conference along the shore of Lake Michigan.
He was flanked by several environmentalists holding signs,
including one that said "No more mercury in my lake."
In Wisconsin, 90 percent of the lakes and streams have high levels
of the toxin and every lake and stream in the state is under a fish
consumption advisory. Still, people eat more fish than the national
The governor said mercury pollution seriously threatens
Wisconsin's sport fishing industry, which employs 30,000 people, as
well as women of childbearing age, pregnant women and young children.
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