State Grants Mercury Limit Challenge

, By Clean Wisconsin

Hearing Upcoming on Department of Natural Resources Permit for Wisconsin Public Service Corp.

MADISON — The state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has granted Clean Wisconsin’s petition challenging a Wisconsin Public Service Corp. (WPS) permit allowing the utility to emit mercury beyond legal limits.

 “Especially given the inherent danger of mercury, there should be no leniency,” said Elizabeth Wheeler, staff attorney for Clean Wisconsin, the state’s largest environmental organization. “DNR has a responsibility to keep companies like WPS accountable.”
The Wisconsin Division of Hearings and Appeals will assign a judge and hearing date. At issue is a DNR permit that allows WPS to emit higher levels of mercury pollution than required by law. WPS has countered with a challenge of its own, arguing that the permit limits are too low. The law requires mercury reductions to the maximum degree achievable.
“DNR cannot legally allow WPS to pollute more,” said Wheeler. “Maximum mercury reductions are required under Wisconsin law, and WPS has the resources and technology to make those reductions.”
Mercury is a potent neurotoxin that can affect the brain, liver and kidneys, and cause developmental disorders in children. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that more than 10,000 children born in Wisconsin every year are prenatally exposed to elevated levels of mercury, an exposure that puts them at risk of having lower IQs and reduced memory. In addition, every inland body of water in Wisconsin is under a fish consumption advisory because of mercury pollution.