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Gov. Blagojevich challenges the federal mercury rule       Send a link to a friend 

Rule unfairly penalizes Illinois coal miners

[APRIL 29, 2005]  CHICAGO -- On Wednesday, Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich announced plans to appeal the federal rule that regulates mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants. The governor's long-standing concern that the rule threatens public health, the environment and Illinois coal miners is outlined in a legal referral submitted by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency to the Illinois attorney general.

"The federal mercury rule fails to ensure the reductions that are vital to protect those most vulnerable to the health risks associated with mercury exposure -- pregnant women and small children," said Gov. Blagojevich. "My administration is committed to reducing mercury in the environment, and we are aggressively encouraging clean coal technology so that Illinois' abundant coal resources can be used in an environmentally responsible manner. The federal mercury rule undermines both of these efforts."

Since U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed the rule last year, Gov. Blagojevich has been on record with detailed criticism demonstrating that the rule is both too weak to protect public health and unfair to Illinois' struggling coal economy. In an April 22, 2004, letter to President Bush, the governor urged a careful re-examination of the rule. Gov. Blagojevich also joined with other Midwest and Eastern coal-producing states to lobby for a more fair and effective approach to mercury reductions than the more lenient standard the rule now allows for coal mined in Western states.

"The rule clearly gives an unfair advantage to Western coal, allowing it to be burned with little or no mercury reductions, penalizing Illinois coal, and putting us at an economic disadvantage," Gov. Blagojevich said. "The people of Illinois are not going to stand for that."

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"This rule is seriously flawed, and we will fight along with the Illinois attorney general to make sure that the federal government fulfills its responsibility to carry out an effective, equitable national program to reduce mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants," the governor said.

Last month Gov. Blagojevich, as new chair of the Midwestern Governors Association, called upon his fellow governors to join him in developing a regional strategy to reduce emissions from coal-fired power plants, including mercury emissions.

Currently, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency has one of the nation's most extensive mercury monitoring programs. An air sampling station in Northbrook launched in 2000 is one of only two continuous mercury-monitoring stations in the U.S. Using advanced scientific techniques, mercury samples are also collected at several inland lakes and streams across the state.

[News release from the governor's office]

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