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[greenyes] More on EPA Mercury Scandal

February 4, 2005
E.P.A. Accused of a Predetermined Finding on Mercury

WASHINGTON, Feb. 3 - The Environmental Protection Agency's inspector general 
charged on Thursday that the agency's senior management instructed staff 
members to arrive at a predetermined conclusion favoring industry when they 
prepared a proposed rule last year to reduce the amount of mercury emitted 
from coal-fired power plants.
Mercury, which can damage the neurological development of fetuses and young 
children, has been found in increasingly high concentrations in fish in 
rivers and streams in the United States.
The inspector general's report, citing anonymous agency staff members and 
internal e-mail messages, said the technological and scientific analysis by 
the agency was "compromised" to keep cleanup costs down for the utility 
The goal of senior management, the report said, was to allow the agency to 
say that the utility industry could do just as good a job through complying 
with the Bush administration's "Clear Skies" legislation as it could by 
installing costly equipment that a stringent mercury-control rule would 
Cynthia Bergman, a spokeswoman for the environmental agency, responded that 
the criticism "is not true." The agency, she said, has "wide latitude" in 
determining which data should be used to set a pollution control standard 
based on the best available technology. She said the mercury rule scheduled 
for release by March 15 "would take us from no regulation to a mandatory 70 
percent cut."
Coal-fired power plants are the largest remaining domestic source of mercury 
emissions in the United States, according to agency figures, although the 
agency believes that factories and utilities in Asia, which emit more than 
1,000 tons of mercury annually, contribute significantly to the mercury that 
enters the food chain in the United States. Domestic coal-fired power plants 
emitted 48 of the 113.2 million tons produced in the United States in 1999.
The Clear Skies legislation is under consideration in the Senate's 
Environment and Public Works Committee, and the release of the inspector 
general's report gives new ammunition to Democrats and environmental groups, 
which had accused the Bush administration of giving preferential treatment 
to the utility industry in the legislation.
The report said the agency's staff was instructed to determine that the best 
pollution-control methods available to power plant owners would cut mercury 
emissions to 34 million tons from 48 million tons, a result that was 
approximated the third time the agency made its computer calculations. 
Earlier results showing that this technology might achieve greater 
reductions were rebuffed by senior managers, the report said.
It concluded that the agency should go back to the drawing board and 
"conduct an unbiased analysis of the mercury emissions data."
Senator James M. Inhofe, the Oklahoma Republican who is chairman of the 
Environment and Public Works committee, lashed out at the inspector general, 
Nikki Tinsley, a Democrat who has recently issued another harsh critique 
charging the agency's senior management with politically driven interference 
in regulatory deliberations.
"This is another example that Nikki Tinsley has politicized the office," he 
said in a statement.
Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, the defeated Democratic presidential 
nominee, issued a statement saying that Ms. Tinsley's report revealed "one 
of the most disturbing examples I've seen of an administration allowing spin 
and junk science to endanger the health of our children." And Bill Becker, 
the executive director of a coalition of state and local air pollution 
control officials, said: "The I.G.'s findings are troubling, but not 
unexpected. Nearly every state in the country has issued fish consumption 
advisories due to mercury-poisoned waters. E.P.A. must comply with the law 
and require stringent cleanup measures at utilities."

Peter Anderson, President
4513 Vernon Blvd. Suite 15
Madison, WI 53705-4964
Ph: (608) 231-1100
Fax: (608) 233-0011
Cell: (608) 698-1314
eMail: anderson@no.address

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