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Press Release

5 of 10 Worst Mercury Polluting Coal Plants are in Texas
Limestone plant near Waco is the Worst in the Nation

October 27, 2004

For Immediate Release
Tom "Smitty" Smith 512-797-8468
Robert Cervenka 254-716-3966

Controversial EPA Plan Would Delay Cleanup for at Least 10 Years
And Allow trading of Mercury - a bad move for Texas.

Five of the then worst mercury polluting coal power plants in the nation are in Texas, according to a new report being released today, According to the study, The Limestone plant, near Waco, ranked the highest in the nation for mercury emissions, with 1800 pounds emitted in 2002. Various citizen groups urged denial of the permit of the proposed new copal plant near Riesel because they say it will add nearly 1200 more pounds of mercury contamination to to central Texas lakes and rivers.

The report, Fishing for Trouble, How Toxic Mercury Contaminates Fish in the U.S. Waterways, by Clear The Air, was released in Texas today by the TPOWER (Texans Protecting our Water and Resources), Public Citizen, the SEED Coalition, TexPIRG, and other organizations.

"Mercury reductions are needed, as soon as possible at all the coal-burning power plants in order to protect our children from brain damage. Texas is already the nation's mercury hotspot and the EPS is failing to protect our health, so it is crucial that the Texas legislature take action to reduce Mercury, " stated Tom "Smithy" Smith, Director of Public Citizen's Texas Office, "There are two new proposed coal plants, including one near Waco area, which will harm children and wildlife. New coal plants make no sense, especially when energy efficiently and clean wind and solar energy could be used instead."

Mercury is dangerous toxic metal, especially for newborns and children. "Exposure to mercury can cause attention and language deficits, impaired memory, and impaired visual and motor functions in children", note Dr. Kimberly Carter, with Austin Physicians for Social Responsibility. "Scientists at the EPA estimate that one in six women of childbearing age in the U.S. has levels of mercury in her blood high enough to put 630,000 of the four million babies born each year at risk of health problems due to mercury exposure. With Texas having 10% of the nation's mercury emissions, it appears likely that tens of thousands of Texas babies are at risk."

"We don't need a dirty coal plant to be permitted at Riesel which will emit 1180 pounds per year of additional mercury, with this much mercury already being emitted within 30 miles" said Robert Cervenka, a local rancher and TPOWER member. "People don't know that it takes less than a teaspoon to contaminate a 20 acre lake. The city is spending millions and filing lawsuits to clean up our lake and we don't need to add more mercury just 9 miles from Lake Waco. Only a third of the lakes have been tested in Texas for mercury. Don't you think we ought to clean up the mess we have made before we make it bigger by adding another coal plant. What will our lakes be like 40 years from now?"

"The decision to permit this plant has not yet been made. We can organize to stop the plant and run the developers off like the folks in Georgia and Oklahoma have done. How can you help? We expect a public meeting on the proposed plant in the next several months. The legislative could toughen mercury and air permitting rules and the TEC could deny or toughen the permit. But it won't happen unless we stand up for the future of central Texas", Cervenka concluded.

"The report is being released as the Bush administration prepares to finalize a highly controversial proposal that would let power plants emit six to seven times more mercury over the next decade than the Clean Air Act allows and would delay meaningful reductions until 2018 at the earliest", said Smith. "Other industrial sources, such as medical and municipal incinerators, have reduced their mercury emissions by more than 90 percent within a few short years, but power plants continue to emit unlimited amounts of mercury into the air. Technology is available to cost-effectively reduce power plant mercury emissions by at least 90 percent by 2008, even when lignite coal is used." The levels of mercury emissions from Texas coal plants have risen for each of the three years of Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) reporting with a whopping 9815 pounds emitted in 2002.

"Mercury contaminates our environment threatens public health, and threatens the fishing industry. Mercury contamination threatens recreational fishing, causing anglers to reduce the number of days they fish, choose other locations to fish, and take fewer overall fishing trips. In Texas, fishing is a $6.4 billion industry. Fish and other wildlife are at risk from mercury, which can impact reproduction." said Bruce Allen of the Two Rivers Sierra Club.

Other Key findings of the report include:

  • Texas is among the twelve states with statewide advisories for the entire coastal areas for at least one species of fish, which is king mackerel for Texas.

  • Texas has 12 mercury fish consumption advisories, with 329,784 lake acres under advisory. Texas freshwater advisories include fish such as drum, several species of bass, and walleye.

"The EPA has not been acting in the best interests of Texas' children. We have 5 of the top 10 worst mercury polluting plants in the nation. EPA had proposed very weak rules, trading of mercury credits and refused to hold a hearing in Texas. We need state leaders to step in now and protect our children from permanent brain damage from mercury. We call on the Bush administration to abandon its mercury-trading proposal and enforce the Clean Air Act by reducing mercury emissions from power plants by at least 90% from existing levels by 2008." said Allen.


Other contacts and resources:
Ed Parten - President of Texas Slack Bass Unlimited - (281)723-3828
Dr. Kimberly Carter - Austin Physicians for Social Responsibility
Kirk Wilies - State Health Services, Seafood and Aquatic Life Group (512) 719-0215

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