Decision helps protect environment and the health of Wisconsinites

WAUPACA — The Wisconsin Natural Resources Board unanimously adopted a rule today that will require utilities to reduce mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants by 90 percent by 2015 or by the same percentage by 2021 if they agree to more stringent controls of nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide—pollutants which increase the toxicity of mercury.

“Reducing mercury pollution is essential to preserving our health and our way of life,” said Keith Reopelle, senior policy director at Clean Wisconsin, the state’s largest environmental advocacy organization. “While we would like to have seen a stronger rule, the adopted rule is significantly better than existing regulation and will help greatly reduce the amount of toxic mercury in our air, lakes, rivers and streams.”

Chronic exposure to mercury can lead to memory loss, speech difficulties, troubles with vision, and cardiovascular problems in adults. Infants and children are particularly susceptible to the dangers of mercury exposure which can cause neurological damage resulting in developmental delays and low intelligence. Individuals usually become exposed to mercury by eating fish that live in mercury-polluted lakes, rivers and streams.

Coal-fired power plants represent Wisconsin’s largest contributors to mercury pollution.

“In a state that takes pride in a fishing tradition, it’s a sad fact that the DNR must list every inland body of water under a fish consumption advisory because of mercury contamination,” Reopelle said. “This rule will help ensure our families enjoy cleaner air and water.”

The adoption of the mercury rule falls two days after a Dane County District Court judge dismissed an attempt from business groups to obtain a court order blocking the DNR from continuing work on the mercury rule. The judge rejected the business groups’ claim that the DNR failed to properly perform an economic analysis of the rule’s effect.

“This rule is a major step forward for Wisconsinites,” Reopelle said. “By reducing mercury pollution from coal-fired power plants we help ensure future generations enjoy a clean and healthy environment.”