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In sum the Sierra Club’s effort will hold almost 30 new coal plants across the nation accountable for skirting public health protections, including plants in Massachusetts, Nebraska, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Montana, Iowa, Louisiana and South Carolina which are currently under investigation for failing to properly control toxic pollution like mercury.
"We want to give moms across the country some peace of mind this Mother’s Day," said Bruce Nilles, Director of the Sierra Club’s National Coal Campaign. "That’s why we’re taking action today to ensure that these coal plants make every effort to keep their toxic mercury pollution out of our communities."
Women and children are extremely susceptible to harm from exposure to mercury. Children who are born to women with high mercury levels face an increased risk of cognitive and developmental damage. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency one in six women has enough mercury in their bodies to put a baby at risk. Later in life, new studies suggest a link between mercury pollution and autism.
The Sierra Club’s effort comes in the wake of a federal appeals court ruling on February 8th of this year that tossed out the Bush Administration’s lax mercury regulations for coal-fired power plants, saying they were not protective of public health.
"There are affordable technologies widely available today that can substantially reduce mercury and other toxic pollution," said Pat Gallagher, Director of the Sierra Club's Environmental Law Program. "In their rush to build new coal plants, developers have turned a blind eye to these technologies, and correspondingly the health of children everywhere."
Coal-fired power plants are the largest single man-made source of mercury pollution in the United States. When the plants release mercury into our air, it rains down into our lakes, rivers and streams. The toxic mercury then makes its way to our dinner tables via contaminated fish. In addition to mercury, coal plants also emit hazardous pollution like arsenic and acid gases. And they are one of the largest sources of global warming pollution, creating almost 40% of our country’s carbon dioxide emissions.
The Sierra Club is sending formal notice of intent to sue letters. To avoid further litigation Sierra Club is asking the coal plant developers to go back to the drawing board and develop new plans to control mercury and other toxic pollution before the plants may be built.
The Sierra Club’s National Coal Campaign is working to ensure coal is mined responsibly, burned cleanly, and does not contribute to global warming. Across the country the Campaign is fighting to stop the construction of dirty new conventional coal plants and direct the proposed investments into low carbon buildings, communities, and electricity. For more information about the threat posed to our health and our environment visit www.sierraclub.org/mercury.