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unEARTHED. The Earthjustice Blog

End of Bush-era Mercury Pollution Trading Scheme


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View Kathleen Sutcliffe's blog posts
23 February 2009, 3:12 PM
 

The U.S. Supreme Court ended years of legal battles today by declining to hear industry's appeal of a 2008 Earthjustice victory. In that case Earthjustice, joined by more than a dozen public health and environmental groups and 14 states, challenged a plan by the Bush administration that would have created mercury "hot spots" across the country. The lower court compared the logic to that of the dangerously irrational Queen of Hearts character in Alice in Wonderland.

Two weeks ago, the Obama administration withdrew government support of the appeal, but that didn't stop utility companies from pushing forward. Today's announcement denying the polluter's appeal hopefully clears the way for meaningful regulations that limit mercury from power plants and start cleaning up this toxic metal from our air and waters.

Upon hearing the news, environmental advocates could literally be heard cheering, "Ding, dong the witch is dead." And for good reason. Some 1,100 coal-fired units at more than 450 existing power plants spew 48 tons of mercury into the air each year. Yet only 1/70th of a teaspoon of mercury is needed to contaminate a 25-acre lake to the point where fish are unsafe to eat. Over 40 states have warned their citizens to avoid consuming various fish species due to mercury contamination, with over half of those mercury advisories applying to all waterbodies in the state.

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