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January 2007

Pennsylvania program joins with national mercury switch effort

Pennsylvania is enhancing its mercury switch removal program by merging its program with a similar, national effort to collect the hazardous substance from salvaged cars and end-of-life vehicles.

In November 2004, McGinty launched a partnership with scrap dealers, the automotive-recycling industry and environmental groups to implement a voluntary mercury removal program. DEP awarded a $165,000 grant to the Pennsylvania Automotive Recycling Trade Society (PARTS) in October 2005 to administer the program and finance the $2 payment for every switch removed by participating automobile recyclers.

So far, Pennsylvania's incentive program has paid out more than $16,000 for the removal of more than 8,100 switches.

The state program, established through a memorandum of understanding, expires September 30, 2007. Merging with the national program, however, keeps the important initiative moving forward in Pennsylvania.

Automakers and steelmakers, which use more than 14 million tons of steel from scrap vehicles each year, have agreed to fund implementation of this program. The national project is expected to remove up to 75 tons of toxic mercury from the environment.

Under the national memorandum of understanding, the automobile manufacturers' responsibilities will include providing educational materials regarding mercury switch removal; arranging and paying for the proper recycling or disposal of the mercury switches; and paying for automobile recyclers to ship the intact anti-lock braking and lighting system assemblies for recycling.

The responsibilities of the automobile manufacturers are coordinated by the End of Life Vehicle Solutions Corporation (ELVS).

Pennsylvania Governor Rendell proposed a state-specific rule that curbs mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants. The state plan requires an 80 percent reduction in mercury emissions by 2010, and 90 percent by 2015. Trading of mercury allowances is prohibited.

Governor Rendell's plan would cut mercury emissions faster and more substantially than a weaker rule put in place by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Pennsylvania ranks second, behind only Texas, both in terms of total mercury emissions from all sources and the total amount of mercury pollution from power plants. Nearly 80 percent of all mercury pollution in Pennsylvania comes from power plants.

The state-specific rule - which drew 10,934 public comments, with fewer than three dozen of those opposed - already has received three affirmative votes: The 16-member Air Quality Technical Advisory Committee agreed to submit the plan to the Environmental Quality Board on September 28. EQB approved the rule October 17. The Independent Regulatory Review Commission voted in favor of the plan November 16.

The rule has been submitted both to EPA and the state Attorney General's Office for final review.

Details about Pennsylvania's mercury reduction efforts are available at

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