Collins seeks mercury law

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Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins is calling for new legislation to track mercury pollution and to slash emissions from the nation’s power plants. She made the announcement shortly after two new studies determined the upper Androscoggin and Kennebec rivers were “hot spots” for mercury.

“I have long-argued that EPA used faulty science in order to justify an insufficient mercury rule, and these studies prove it,” Collins said in a statement Tuesday. “EPA misrepresented the mercury problem based on computer data which had not been peer-reviewed, and then put out a rule which does not account for mercury hot spots and which places children and pregnant women at risk.”

The studies, published this month by the peer-review journal BioScience, identified five northeastern regions with high mercury levels in fish and birds. The hot spots include the Adirondack Mountain region in New York, the upper Connecticut River in New Hampshire and Vermont, the lower Merrimack River in New Hampshire and Massachusetts, central Nova Scotia and the upper Androscoggin and Kennebec rivers.

On Tuesday, David Evers, one study’s lead author and director of the BioDiversity Research Institute in Gorham, held a news conference with other researchers to announce the findings.

Later that morning, Collins announced that she would introduce legislation to create a nationwide mercury monitoring network. She also said she would reintroduce legislation to reduce mercury emissions from power plants by 90 percent.

“Congress should act on this issue expeditiously,” Collins said.

In a statement, U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud said he would also support any legislation that sets up a mercury monitoring network.

Maine state environmental officials released a statement Tuesday welcoming the studies, noting that the only way to seriously reduce mercury in Maine is through a national program limiting emissions from coal-fired plants elsewhere in the country.

Typically, 95 percent of the mercury entering a Maine lake comes from atmospheric deposition, much of which comes from out-of-state sources, according to the release from Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner David Littell’s office.

Citing the studies’ findings of unusually high levels of mercury in loons on Maine impoundments, DEP officials said they will review information on potential water discharges, local emission sources and historic data.

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