Agreements with Illinois' three major coal-fired power companies
lead to approval of state mercury pollution reduction plan
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improve public health reduces emissions by 90 percent
[DEC. 12, 2006]
SPRINGFIELD -- On Tuesday, Gov. Rod R.
Blagojevich, environmental advocates, utilities, and state and city
officials celebrated final approval of the governor's plan to
drastically reduce mercury pollution. The state's Joint Committee on
Administrative Rules, a bipartisan legislative oversight committee
of the Illinois General Assembly, unanimously approved the plan. The
plan requires Illinois coal-fired power plants to install modern
pollution-control equipment designed to reduce mercury pollution by
at least 90 percent. It is considered a critical milestone in
reducing toxic air pollution throughout Illinois and one of the most
important environmental and public health advances in Illinois
"Mercury is extremely dangerous, especially for new mothers and
young children," Blagojevich said. "If it's ingested, it can cause
serious physical and developmental disabilities in fetuses and kids.
The federal government hasn't gone far enough to reduce mercury
emissions, but instead of waiting around for them to act, we're
doing what we have to do to protect Illinois families. I would like
to congratulate members of JCAR for making our rules permanent."
The approval follows the announcement of a multi-pollutant agreement
between the state of Illinois and Midwest Generation, the largest
coal-fired electric generator in Illinois, which will dramatically
reduce air pollution from the company's fleet of six power plants.
This historic agreement is the third agreement requiring much faster
and deeper pollution reductions than under federal requirements. The
mercury rule -- including multi-pollutant agreements with Midwest
Generation, Ameren and Dynegy -- is among the most stringent
pollution reduction state plans in the nation and is one of the most
far-reaching environmental agreements in the state's history.
The successful vote to implement the mercury reduction plan was
achieved, in part, due to the agreements with the three major
coal-fired power companies in Illinois. Midwest Generation, Ameren
and Dynegy all agreed to install mercury control equipment by 2009
on at least 94 percent of their Illinois power plants. By 2012 at
the latest, the remaining 6 percent of plants will install controls
that are able to meet the standards. These agreements require
reducing not only mercury but other pollutants -- sulfur dioxide and
nitrogen oxides -- also far surpassing federal standards. The
mercury rule achieves more than 90 percent mercury reductions by
2015, while federal rules require only a 78 percent reduction by
2018. The rule also achieves between a 65 percent and 80 percent
reduction in sulfur dioxide reductions by 2019, while the federal
rule requires only a 34 percent reduction by 2019. Combined, these
reductions establish Illinois as a national leader in reducing power
The approval of the mercury rule means that power companies must
take specific measures to reduce toxic mercury pollution from their
coal-fired power plants in Illinois. The dramatic mercury emission
reductions required under the governor's rule will reduce the risk
of exposure to toxic levels of mercury. People are exposed to
mercury primarily through the consumption of fish from
mercury-contaminated waterways throughout Illinois and the entire
"This is a significant achievement that will benefit the
environment and public health in Illinois, said Doug Scott, director
of the Illinois EPA. "The governor's mercury proposal that was
approved today is among the toughest in the nation and has led to
even greater multi-pollutant reductions, making it even more
beneficial to improving the quality of life for people throughout
"The big winners today are the children of tomorrow," said Jack
Darin, director of the Sierra Club, Illinois Chapter. "Governor
Blagojevich's mercury cleanup plan will not only make Illinois
children safer, it sets a bold example for America to follow in
protecting our kids from this dangerous neurotoxin."
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"Today's actions on mercury pollution are a tremendous victory
for all of us who care about protecting children's health and the
environment," said Howard Learner, executive director of the
Environmental Law and Policy Center. "Illinois is now a national
leader in stepping up to reduce mercury pollution from coal plants
by about 90 percent by 2009. Combined with measures underway in
other Midwest states, Illinois actions will go far towards reducing
mercury in the Great Lakes and our inland lakes and rivers."
"The governor and Illinois EPA made a promise last January to
clean up mercury and create one of the strongest rules in the nation
for mercury emission reduction," said Max Muller, environment
advocate for Environment Illinois. "Today, with the final passage of
this rule, they will have delivered on that promise and have made a
solid first step toward making our air safe to breathe. We are happy
to extend our thanks and congratulations."
Sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides contribute to ground-level
ozone and fine particles of air pollution that can lead to
respiratory illness, particularly in children and the elderly, and
aggravate heart and lung diseases. These pollutants also create acid
rain, reduce visibility and damage sensitive ecosystems.
Mercury can cause serious health problems to the human nervous
system. 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 EPA estimates that the state's
coal-fired power plants emit about 3.5 tons of mercury into the air
During the governor's term, Illinois has enacted laws and
established initiatives to:
Collect and remove
mercury-containing switches from retired vehicles before they
are processed as scrap metal.
agencies to recycle or responsibly dispose of old electronic
equipment that contains toxic substances like mercury.
Ban the production
and sale of mercury fever thermometers and other products that
contain mercury, including novelty items and electrical switches
collection and recycling of consumer products with
climate-control thermostats that contain mercury switches and
from purchasing mercury for classroom use.
Shut down hospital
waste incinerators that are sources of mercury emissions.
[News release from the governor's office]