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U.S. Representatives Urge Health Limits on Mercury, Other Toxic Air Pollutants

Rep. Keith Ellison, 32 others, send letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson
February 17, 2011
Washington, D.C. —

Yesterday, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) sent a letter to Lisa Jackson supporting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s pending rule to limit emissions of mercury and other toxic pollutants from industrial boilers, which is due for release by February 21, 2011. Many big industrial plants, including oil refineries, chemical plants and paper mills use on-site boilers to generate their own heat and electricity. These on-site power plants are among the nation’s worst polluters. Collectively, they are the second worst emitter of mercury, and they also emit large quantities of lead, arsenic, and other highly toxic pollution.

Rep. Ellison’s letter—which was signed by 33 members of Congress—calls for strong protections to safeguard Americans’ health from the toxic air emissions that industrial boilers release to the environment. Industrial boilers’ mercury emissions are especially hazardous. Mercury is a potent neurotoxicant that can cause cognitive and developmental problems in young and unborn children. More than 300,000 American babies born every year already may be at increased risk of developmental damage through in utero exposure to mercury, according to the EPA.

Congressman Ellison said in a statement: “I commend the EPA’s efforts to protect public health, but we can and must do better, and this rule presents an opportunity to do just that.”

In an attempt to avoid controlling their toxic pollution, industry groups such as the American Chemistry Council, American Petroleum Institute, the American Forest & Paper Association, and the Council for Industrial Boiler Owners (CIBO) hired lobbyists to claim that controlling toxic pollution from industrial boilers would cost jobs and cause plant shutdowns. The lobbyists’ claims, however, have been repeatedly discredited. Most recently, a report from the non-partisan Congressional Research Service (CRS) concluded that “little credence can be placed in CIBO’s estimate of job losses.”

Indeed, every non-partisan study of the boiler health protections concluded that industry’s economic forecasts are nonsense. The National Association of Clean Air Agencies (NACAA), the entity that represents the state authorities that manage air pollution, investigated a study funded by CIBO and found that it ignored entirely the substantial benefits to public health that come from reducing boilers’ toxic emissions, made numerous faulty economic assumptions, and arbitrarily disregarded thousands of new American jobs that would be generated to install, operate, and maintain pollution controls. The Environmental Protection Agency’s own analysis, which was reviewed and approved by the Office of Management and Budget indicates that 12,000 new jobs could be created by reducing air pollution from boilers. It is undisputed that controlling industrial boilers will generate billions of dollars in health benefits—far more than the cost of controls.

“The industry lobbyists are using the same tactics they used to obscure the dangers of cigarette smoke,” said Earthjustice’s James Pew. “The truth is that the pollution from uncontrolled industrial boilers is extremely hazardous. Cleaning these polluters up is good for our health and our economy. Our hat is off to Representative Ellison and his colleagues for standing up to the industry lobbyists and speaking up for American families.”

Ellison's Letter to the EPA:

NACAA Report:

CRS Report (for purchase):


James Pew, Earthjustice, (202) 667-4500, ext. 214