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Labor, Business Coalition Applauds Senate Action To Reduce Mercury Emissions

Committee approves bill requiring an 86% reduction in mercury emissions from power pants

A labor, business and coal industry coalition applauded action by the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee to approve bipartisan legislation requiring an 86% reduction in mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants.

The proposal is contained in Senate Bill 1201, the Clean Air Mercury Compliance Act, which was approved by a 10 to 1 vote of the Committee.

The coalition includes: the United Mine Workers of America, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Pennsylvania Coal  Association, Electric Power Generation Association, Pennsylvania Chamber of
Business and Industry, Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association, Pennsylvania Chemical Industry Council, Associated Petroleum Industries of Pennsylvania, and the newest member, the Pennsylvania Conference of Teamsters.

"We support this common-sense legislation because it will not only significantly reduce mercury emissions, but also gives power plants incentives for early reductions of mercury in a cost-effective way that protects jobs and electric customers in Pennsylvania," said Douglas L. Biden, President, Electric Power Generation Association.

"This bill will require power plant owners to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in advanced clean air controls to reduce mercury emissions, covering 90% of the power plants in Pennsylvania, according to DEP," said Edward D. Yankovich, International Vice President, United Mine Workers of America. "Installing these controls means these plants could continue to burn Pennsylvania coal and help protect mine worker jobs."

"The risk of power plants switching to coal mined in other states is very real, because Pennsylvania coal has twice the mercury content of coal from other states," according to George L. Ellis, President of the
Pennsylvania Coal Association. "If this legislation is not adopted, power generators will have no choice but to consider switching to out-of-state coal with a much lower mercury content and our jobs will go with it."

In contrast to the bipartisan Senate proposal, a mercury rule proposed by the Department of Environmental Protection puts at risk of premature retirement a significant amount of our coal-fired electric generating
capacity. Smaller, older plants would be at risk because it would be cost- prohibitive to put on the most expensive air pollution controls.

    "Studies show there is virtually no difference between adopting this legislation and zeroing out all mercury emissions from all power plants in the U.S.," said Donald Siegel, International Vice President, International
Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. "Eighty percent of the mercury consumed by Americans comes from ocean and saltwater fish that would not be affected by reducing U.S. utility mercury emissions."

In fact, power plants in Pennsylvania already have reduced mercury emissions by 33 percent from 1999 to 2004, according to the federal Toxics Release Inventory and yet this significant reduction did not even register on the state's Mercury Monitoring Network, according to DEP.

This demonstrates clearly that mercury is coming from a variety of sources, not just local power plants, and Senate Bill 1201 is the only proposal that facilitates Pennsylvania's participation in a national program to reduce mercury emissions.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control also conducted a nationwide study of women of childbearing age, infants and young children and found not a single case where mercury levels approached the level that might cause adverse health effects.

"Without the incentives to install cost-effective air pollution control equipment contained in this legislation, power companies will have no choice but to raise electricity prices on homeowners and businesses," said
Gene Barr, Vice President for Political and Regulatory Affairs for the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry. "That's bad news for families and businesses who are already coping with higher energy costs in
other areas."

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