Pennsylvania develops state-specific mercury
Harrisburg, PA— Pennsylvania
environmental protection secretary Kathleen A. McGinty announced
that the Environmental Quality Board (EQB) approved DEP’s
recommendation to move forward with plans to preserve the economic
vitality of the state’s coal industry while protecting public
DEP received EQB approval to
initiate a process to develop state-specific regulations to control
mercury emissions in Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania has filed several
lawsuits challenging EPA’s final mercury emissions reduction
rule for new and existing coal-fired power plants. The cases also
challenge EPA’s subcategorization of coal types, which encourages
fuel switching away from Pennsylvania bituminous coal in favor
of coal mined in the western U.S.
“The federal mercury rule
does not sufficiently protect public health and is a potentially
severe blow to our economy,” McGinty said. “Inaction
is not an option. We need to change course to keep our residents
safe and our economy strong.”
The U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency’s Clean Air Mercury Rule became final in May 2005
and took effect nationwide on July 18. Pennsylvania must submit
to EPA by November 17, 2006, a state plan that describes how it
will implement and enforce the federal emissions guidelines or
its own more protective standards.
There is a compelling interest
to reduce state and local mercury emission levels. In 2003, electric
steam generating units in Pennsylvania accounted for 77 percent
of the 5.7 tons of mercury emitted from air contamination sources
in the commonwealth. Texas is the only state with greater mercury
emissions than Pennsylvania.
At least 45 states — including
Pennsylvania — have issued fish consumption advisories because
of elevated mercury levels in fish and shellfish and the adverse
effects of mercury on human beings and animals.
The EPA rule places more stringent
emissions standards on bituminous coal mined in eastern states
like Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Virginia
and West Virginia. The most stringent regulations are placed on
Little or no reductions are required
on power generating units using sub-bituminous coal from the West.
Because of the disparities in the emission standards, owners of
coal-fired units that generally burn bituminous coal could comply
with the final mercury emissions standards simply by switching
fuels. This encourages a shift away from Pennsylvania coal, and
will result in a very real and significant economic dislocation
for the state’s coal industry.
The Pennsylvania Coal Association
and United Mine Workers of America joined the department in June
2004 to ask EPA to drop plans to disadvantage Pennsylvania coal.
Although DEP, PCA and UMWA disagreed on key aspects of EPA’s
rule, and although these organizations have not supported a state-specific
rule, the groups were in total agreement with DEP on the overriding
fact that the federal agency’s prejudicial treatment of
Pennsylvania coal was harmful to the state’s economy.
Citizens for Pennsylvania’s
Future (PennFuture) filed a petition in August 2004 asking the
state to consider whether regulations need to be developed to
control mercury emissions here. DEP responded on May 18 and reported
that a proposed rulemaking should be developed to reduce mercury
emissions in Pennsylvania. EQB’s action sets that rulemaking
process in motion.