Don’t Let Utilities Get Away With Mercury Pollution

BY ON May 31, 2013

Cartoon about lobbyists mowing down environmental regulations

Back in 2011, we launched Moms Clean Air Force with an urgent campaign: get mercury and other poisonous emissions from coal-fired power plants out of our air.

Mercury is a potent neurotoxin, extremely dangerous for fetuses, infants and toddlers; it affects their developing brains, lungs and hearts. After 21 years—and a fierce battle in which you played an important role — in June 2012 the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards to significantly curtail mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants went into effect.

Victory? Yowzers! I sure am politically naïve.

I hadn’t understood that there is yet another level in the endless — and broken — rule-making process: lawsuits. The latest tactic of certain utilities is to spend millions of ratepayer  dollars to tie up the important mercury rules in court — for years.

A leader in those lawsuits is Nick Akins, CEO of American Electric Power (AEP). He and his colleagues are fighting for the right to keep poisoning our air.

It is time for parents, and anyone who cares about our children’s health,  to use our power.

Every year, over 400,000 U.S. newborns are affected by mercury pollution. When I was pregnant, decades ago, I was told by my doctor not to eat tuna because it was contaminated with mercury. But no one ever explained that we have mercury in our fish because of air pollution--toxic emissions spewing from coal-fired power plants, settling in our lakes, rivers and oceans, and entering the food chain.

  • Lawsuits against mercury rules mean many more years of mercury and other toxins being spewed into our atmosphere.
  • Lawsuits mean many more years of pregnant women, fetuses, infants and children being exposed to the hazards of mercury and other toxics.
  • Lawsuits mean many more years of contaminated fish from America’s waters.
  • Lawsuits mean many more years of cynically spending ratepayer dollars instead of spending on cleaning up toxic pollution.

Who else is suing to protect their right to spew toxins into our air? Other coal-fired power plants, of course. Hiding behind the face of industry coalition groups — the secretive Utility Air Regulatory Group, UARG, and the misleadingly named American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, ACCCE — some of the worst mercury-polluting utilities are suing to stop the rules.

These power companies have power. AEP’s lobbying expenditures for 2012 totaled $7,529,135 — and that’s just one power company! 

But parents have power too. The power of doing what is right. The lawsuits are morally bankrupt.

There are lots of utility good guys, too. We list them — and the bad guys — at Many companies have publicly supported the rule, and installed scrubbers — without raising electric rates. That’s what makes this mess so remarkable. And so tragic. It is unnecessary.

Shame on the utilities that are stalling for time–and paying with our children’s health.


Cartoon: Danny Shanahan

TOPICS: Clean Air Rules and Regulations, Coal, Mercury Poisoning, Politics