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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 25, 2004

Contact: Elaine Makatura
609-292-2994

COMMISSIONER CAMPBELL CRITICIZES PROPOSED
EPA MERCURY AND AIR QUALITY RULES

(04/08) PHILADELPHIA - New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) Commissioner Bradley M. Campbell testified today at a federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) hearing regarding EPA's proposed rules for mercury control and interstate air quality.

Prior to the hearing, Commissioner Campbell joined parents, scientists, doctors and regulatory officials from New York and Pennsylvania at an event organized by the National Environmental Trust, voicing significant criticism of the Bush EPA's proposed rules that will weaken controls protecting the public from harmful mercury emissions.

"Clearly in the choice between families and polluters, President Bush is willing to leave every child behind in order to reward industry and campaign contributors," said Commissioner Campbell. "It is shameful that the Bush EPA is putting children at risk by delaying and weakening long overdue controls on mercury emissions, even though cost effective controls are readily available."

The Bush Administration's proposed mercury controls would let coal-fired power plants trade credits, gaining financially for mercury emission reductions already mandated by the Clean Air Act. The Bush proposal would reduce plants' mercury emissions by only one-third of what the Clean Air Act requires and would allow many plants to continue their mercury emissions unabated. The cap-and-trade form of mercury controls would allow several times more emissions than a Clinton-era plan that called for a technology-based control standard for all facilities. The Bush scheme also extends the deadline for full compliance to 2018 from a court-approved deadline of 2007.

In contrast, New Jersey proposed in January tough new restrictions on mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants, iron and steel melters, and municipal solid waste incinerators. The rules will reduce in-state mercury emissions by over 1,500 pounds annually and reduce emissions from New Jersey's coal-fired power plants by 90 percent by 2007. New Jersey's standards must be met by federal leadership because more than one-third of mercury deposition in New Jersey is from sources in upwind states.

Exposure to the most toxic form of mercury comes primarily from eating contaminated fish and shellfish. Children and pregnant women are especially susceptible to mercury contamination, which can cause permanent brain damage to the fetus, infants, and young children. Mercury exposure has been shown to affect the ability of children to pay attention, remember, talk, draw, run, see, and play.

Even exposure to low levels can permanently damage the brain and nervous system and cause behavioral changes. Scientists estimate up to 60,000 children may be born annually in the United States with neurological problems leading to poor school performance because of mercury exposure while in utero.

 

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