Power plants can now use cleaner technologies to operate, greatly reducing mercury emissions. Photo: OHVEC
Coal-fired electric power is the single dirtiest industry in the country when it comes to mercury pollution. Coal plants account for nearly all (92%) of mercury pollution in Montana, and mercury is now becoming a serious health concern in the state. Due to high mercury concentrations in streams, rivers and lakes, the state has issued statewide health advisories to limit fish consumption. Ten bald eagles have been found with mercury poisoning in Montana in the last year. From a human health standpoint, these events are red flags. Even in extremely small doses, mercury can have a profound effect on the development of babies and young children.
Montana is now preparing to adopt mercury emissions standards for coal plants. Unfortunately, these standards will not clean up the most polluting plants across the state. For example, the enormous Colstrip facilities will be required to control only 50% of their mercury emissions through 2018; the Corette facility will be required to control only 7% of mercury emissions through 2018, and the proposed Highwood Generating Station near Great Falls will be required to control only 26% of mercury emissions through 2018.
Yet there are affordable pollution control technologies available right now that would allow for 90% reductions in mercury emissions. Notably, Georgia, a major coal producer, is proposing to capture 80-85% of mercury emissions statewide by 2010 and capture 90% of emissions by 2015. There is nothing to stop coal-fired power plants from making similar strides in Montana.
That is why we are working with local people from doctors to Native American tribal members to oppose the mercury rules that the Montana Department of Environmental Quality is currently proposing. A strong mercury rule is the only way to force highly profitable coal-fired power plants to clean up their act.
Residents of Montana can contact Governor Brian Schweitzer by using this form, or calling his office at (406) 444-3111.