As a writer for Moms Clean Air Force, I was eagerly waiting to hear the December 16 announcement from the Environmental Protection Agency on their new rules to limit mercury and other toxic air pollutants. The day came and went, but there was no news.
The EPA is under a court-ordered deadline to sign the final air toxics rule for power plants into law. The updated regulations were slated to put out new standards for power plants that burn coal and oil. The goal was to cut approximately 90 percent of the mercury emitted from exhaust within three years. Other pollutants, including heavy metals, arsenic, and acid gases, were to be addressed as well.
I reached out to Teresa B. Clemmer, Acting Director of the Environmental and National Resources Law Clinic and Associate Professor of Law at Vermont Law School, to ask why the EPA had not delivered a statement and to get a better understanding on the involved and circuitous rulemaking process.
“It’s not uncommon for EPA to miss deadlines,” Clemmer told me. “Sometimes EPA is hesitant to come out with final rulings on controversial issues,” she added. With a nod to the upcoming election, Clemmer stated, “President Obama needs to support the leadership of Lisa Jackson on critical public health and environmental issues and focus less on short term political considerations.” Since the EPA has missed the deadline, Clemmer believes the parties to the litigation prompting EPA’s action may be in the process of negotiating another extension of time.
Here’s the backstory:
In March 16, 2011, when the EPA proposed rules to regulate Mercury and other toxins from power plants their findings showed that:
On the issue of mercury as a neurotoxin, Clemmens said unequivocally, “The toxicity is terrible for the development of young brains. Chronic exposure creates severe effects.”
Faulting the power industry for avoiding regulations for twenty years while air, water, and fish have been contaminated, Clemmens pointed to the strength of the coal lobby. She was direct in her opinions. “There is no such thing as clean coal. From cradle to grave, coal is a disaster. Mining it destroys landscapes, burning it generates huge quantities of ozone and particulate matter, toxic pollutants, and greenhouse gases. Disposing of its byproducts leads to the creation of toxic waste lagoons that are slowly and silently leaching into the water. At every stage of its life, coal is dangerous. It’s the single most responsible cause for the climate crisis.” She capped off her comments with the pronouncement, “Coal is a ticking time bomb.”
In response to those who play the “economic burden” card, Clemmer replied, “The owners and top executives in the coal industry are not in the business of creating jobs. Their main interest is in getting wealthy.” Rather than kicking the can down the road, Clemmer advocates focusing on the renewable forms of energy such as wind, solar, and geo-thermal.
Applauding the efforts of those citizens pushing back, Clemmer encouraged, “Get active and vocal, and stay involved. It really does work when elected officials hear from their constituents.”
Photo Courtesy of Mark Washburn
This article originally appeared on Moms Clean Air Force