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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 5, 2006
Governor Blagojevich proposes aggressive mercury emission controls for Illinois power plants
New rules boost public health by cutting toxins that cause nervous system disorders in infants and children; Rules require 90 percent mercury reduction by 2009, compared to 47 percent requirement under new federal rules
CHICAGO –Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today unveiled a proposal that would
cut mercury emissions from power plants by 90 percent by June 30, 2009.
The state standards will reduce toxic mercury emissions faster and more
thoroughly than new federal restrictions adopted last spring and will
achieve the largest overall amount of mercury reduction of any state in the
country. The rule will be submitted to the Illinois Pollution Control
Board in February.
“Mercury emissions hurt the environment and can cause serious physical harm
to children. The new federal mercury regulations don’t go far enough in
protecting the public from what we know are very dangerous emissions.
That’s why we are proposing much stronger regulations here in Illinois to
make sure people can safely enjoy our air and water, and the fish from our
rivers and lakes,” said Gov. Blagojevich.
Mercury can cause serious health problems to the human nervous system –
pregnant women, women of childbearing age and children younger than 15
years of age are especially at risk. Developing fetuses can be exposed to
mercury when a mother eats tainted fish and can suffer mental retardation,
cerebral palsy, lower IQs, slow motor functions, deafness, blindness and
other health problems. Recent studies indicate that as many as 10 percent
of babies born each year in the United States are exposed to excessive
mercury levels in the womb.
In the U.S., an estimated 43 percent of mercury emissions come from power
plants, making them the largest man-made source of mercury emissions. The
Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) estimates that the state’s
coal-fired power plants emit 3.5 tons of mercury into the air every year.
Mercury becomes toxic when it enters lakes and streams from the atmosphere
through rain and snow. People can become exposed to dangerous levels of
mercury by eating fish from contaminated lakes and waterways.
The Illinois Fish Containment Monitoring Program issued “fish advisories”
warning Illinois residents to limit the amount of fish they eat from Lake
Michigan and all of Illinois’ inland lakes and waterways.
Mercury contamination is a nationwide problem. The U. S. Environmental
Protection Agency (USEPA) issued the Clean Air Mercury Rule on March 10,
2005, that required coal-fired power plants to reduce mercury emissions by
47 percent by 2010, and 79 percent by 2018. The proposed Illinois rules
are significantly stronger, requiring a 90 percent emissions reduction by
June 30, 2009, and prohibiting power plants from purchasing allowances, or
trading emissions credits with other companies or states – practices that
can lead to toxic “hot-spots” in areas where individual plants are able to
get around emissions standards.
“The federal rules just don’t go far enough. Illinois’ approach is more
stringent and effective in that it will require greater reductions, quicker
reductions, and guarantee that the emissions are drastically reduced in
Illinois,” said Doug Scott, Director of the IEPA.
“Under the Environmental Article of the Illinois Constitution, all of us
have the duty to provide for a healthful environment for this and future
generations,” said Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn. “Today's proposed rule to cut
mercury emissions from power plants will dramatically improve Illinois'
environment for this and future generations.”
Recognizing the varying age and condition of existing coal-fired power
plants that produce energy in Illinois, the proposal would require that
power plant operators must reduce emissions by an average of 90 percent
across their entire fleet of plants by June 30, 2009. Each individual
plant must achieve at least a 75 percent reduction by 2009, and 90 percent
reduction by December 31, 2012. Illinois' fleet of coal burning power
plants is the largest in the nation to be subject to such dramatic emission
“Governor Blagojevich's mercury reduction plan is a home run. It will
protect our children's health and environment by reducing 90 percent of the
mercury pollution from Illinois coal plants,” said Howard Learner,
Executive Director of the Environmental Law and Policy Center. “We commend
the Governor on his leadership and look forward to working with his
agencies to implement these strong standards for installing modern
pollution control technology on Illinois coal plants.”
“If enacted, this proposal will not only protect the health of Illinois
children, it will also set an example for America to follow in addressing a
major public health problem,” said Jack Darin,
Director of the Sierra Club, Illinois Chapter. “Mothers and women hoping
to have children shouldn't have to worry that by eating fish and feeding it
to their kids that they could be doing permanent damage to a child's brain.
We hope Illinois power plants will heed Gov. Blagojevich's call to clean up
their act and protect our children's health. The technology to protect our
kids is available, affordable, and it’s time we put it on these
“The good news is, the State is doing what federal regulators refused to
do," said Jean Flemma, Executive Director of Prairie Rivers Network.
“Instead of having some of the largest mercury emissions in the country,
Illinois will now be at the forefront of reducing mercury pollution,
protecting our children's health and serving as a model for other states.
We support the Governor's proposal and thank him and the Illinois EPA for
their leadership. This is a huge victory for public health in Illinois, and
the Governor should be commended for taking the lead in protecting our
citizens, our communities, and our environment.”
“By requiring Illinois power plants to cut 90% or more of their mercury
pollution by 2009, this
administration is making it clear that putting our children at risk for
brain damage is not an
acceptable cost of doing business in this state,” said Rebecca Stanfield,
Executive Director of the Illinois Public Interest Research Group.
“Mercury is a poison that hits the most sensitive among us -- children,
women and subsistence anglers -- from fish consumption in Lake Michigan and
other state waters. We commend Gov. Blagojevich for his stand in
recognizing that Lake Michigan and the public health are too important to
leave unprotected by weak federal measures,” said Cameron Davis, Executive
Director of the Alliance for the Great Lakes.
The new emission standards are expected to provide economic benefits across
the state. Construction jobs will be created as companies invest in
pollution control equipment and installation for their coal-fired power
plants. And as mercury levels drop, the state’s fishing industry may also
see a boost because the fish will be safer to eat.
Illinois joins half-a-dozen other states that have, or are in the process
of, developing emissions standards stricter than the federal guidelines:
Connecticut, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina and
Lt. Governor's Office
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