Wisconsin Wildlife Federation: Cost of Mercury Pollution Control: A Cup of Coffee Per Month for Wisconsin Ratepayers

Wisconsin Wildlife Federation

National Wildlife Federation Report Shows Low Cost of Mercury Cleanup

“The technology is available and affordable”
Madison—Wisconsin’s coal-burning power plants can deeply cut toxic mercury emissions for only $1.00 per household per month, according to a report by the National Wildlife Federation (NWF).

“Reducing mercury emissions from power plants is a challenge American industry can meet today,” says George Meyer, Executive Director, Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, “The technology is available and the cost is reasonable. Now, we’re calling on federal leaders to get the job done by adopting strict mercury standards as required by current law.”

NWF’s report concludes that significant reductions in mercury pollution are both feasible and affordable today. In Getting the Job Done, NWF calculated what it would cost for coal-fired power plants to install controls to cut mercury emissions by 90 percent, and found that household electricity bills would increase a mere $1.00-$3.00/month.

“Even in states that rely heavily on coal for electricity generation, such as Wisconsin, we’ve demonstrated that we can significantly reduce mercury emissions for about a dollar a month or roughly the cost of a cup of coffee” says Felice Stadler, NWF’s mercury policy specialist.

In Wisconsin, coal provides sixty-eight per cent of the state’s electricity. NWF’s analysis shows that achieving 90 percent mercury control would only raise monthly electricity bills by less than 1 to 2 percent.

“Mercury pollution from power plants is one problem we do not need to hand down to our children,” says Jerry Knuth (Plover), President, Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, “We want to leave a legacy of clean water and healthy fish. Sportsmen and women pay millions of dollars every year to support fishery conservation and management efforts. We’re asking the utilities to do their part so that we can make mercury fish consumption advisories a thing of the past.”

Using data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Getting the Job Done analyzed the cost of reducing mercury emissions from power plants in five states (Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, and North Dakota) that generate from 40 to 95 percent of their electricity from coal. Regardless of coal burned, NWF found that installing commercially available mercury controls could be accomplished for a reasonable cost. NWF’s findings are consistent with nationwide cost estimates that have been completed by the U.S. Department of Energy, EPA, and the Institute for Clean Air Companies.

Getting the Job Done comes at a time when the EPA is preparing to finalize a regulation for mercury emissions from power plants. Rather than set strict limits for each plant, as required by the current Clean Air Act, the EPA proposed a cap and trade program that would allow power plants to meet that cap by either reducing their emissions or buying “pollution credits” from cleaner companies. While EPA’s proposed cap represents a 70 percent reduction from today’s levels, its emissions trading program would delay these reductions until at least 2025. In contrast, current law requires EPA to set a technically feasible standard for every power plant, a standard that would likely reduce mercury emissions by up to 90 percent by the end of this decade.

“The current EPA plan is too little too late,” says George Meyer. “Mercury contamination poses great risk to people and wildlife here in Wisconsin and nationwide, and we have an affordable solution to the problem. This report makes a compelling case for why we do not need 15 more years before we take this problem seriously.”

Mercury is a dangerous toxin that interferes with the development and function of the central nervous system, as well as the cardiovascular and reproductive systems. Even at low levels mercury can cause subtle but permanent harm to the human brain and reproductive harm in wildlife. Forty-five states and territories, including Wisconsin, have issued advisories warning people to limit their consumption of certain fish caught in lakes and streams and coastal waters due to mercury contamination. The nation’s 430 coal-burning power plants are the largest unregulated source of mercury pollution in the United States. Mercury emissions deposit with rain and snow on our nation’s waters, where it makes its way into fish, posing a risk to people and wildlife that eat the fish.

Getting the Job Done is available on the Internet at: www.nwf.org/news

Contact: George Meyer, Executive Director, Wisconsin Wildlife Federation—608-516-5545

Zoe Lipman, NWF, (734) 769-3351 or Lisa Swann, NWF (703) 438-6083