membershippublicationseventslinksmediaideas for actiongoals and progress

i d e a s   f o r   a c t i o n
Reducing Mercury Pollution

December 1999
Earth Alert #9

Take Personal and Political action to reach the goals of Earth Day.

problem || personal action || political action

m e m b e r s h i p

get on our E group


Polluting our air, rivers, and lakes, mercury is one of the most toxic substances we know. Like lead, it affects the central nervous system, putting children in utero, infants and young children most at risk.

In fact, concern over mercury contamination has led governmental agencies to warn customers not to eat bass, trout and other sporting fish caught in 1000 lakes and streams in 40 U.S. states. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates seven million woman and children are regularly eating fish that the agency considers unsafe.

Coal-burning electric power plants are the largest source of mercury pollution. Nearly 400 plants in 43 states are annually emitting an estimated 98,000 pounds of mercury directly into the air through the plants’ smokestacks and are generating another 81,000 pounds a year in mercury-tainted waste.

Industry political pressure on Congress has prevented the EPA from regulating mercury or any other air pollutants emitted by the utilities. Despite an EPA report to Congress that documented the threat of power plant emissions to human health and the environment, Congress prohibited EPA action until after additional studies were completed by the National Academy of Science.

Personal Action

Exercise Your Green Power

The best way to reduce mercury exposure is to increase the use of green power. Green power is key to creating a cleaner, sustainable energy system. Renewable energy –- power from the sun, wind, plants, and moving water -- is a natural way to meet our energy needs and protect the environment.

In the current deregulated electricity market, you will increasingly be able to choose green power as an option. Choosing new, green power could make a big difference for the environment, because electricity generation is the largest industrial polluter in the country.

The opportunity to choose green power is relatively new. By early 1999, 20 states had acted to restructure their electric industries and to offer consumer choice over time. Only four states -– California, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Pennsylvania -– have fully competitive markets; each differs substantially. Utilities in ten states have started pilot programs offering green power options. Only New Hampshire and Oregon have significant pilot programs in place.

The availability of green power will increase with consumer demand. Even in states that offer green power, the actual offerings may be slim and/or expensive. Participate in our Earth Day 2000 Green Power Survey to find out what your utility offers and to remind them that customers like you care. Simply cut out the survey and mail it to your utility.

Write the EPA

Within the next 12 months, the EPA must make a decision whether to set strict emission caps on mercury and other common pollutants from power plants. Write a letter to EPA Administrator Carol Browner demanding that tight controls be enacted. Her address is: Administrator Carol Browner, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 401 M Street S.W., Washington, DC 20460.

Survey your Utility Company

With the advent of energy deregulation, now is the time to hold energy companies accountable to offering green alternatives. The following Green Power Survey is designed to help you avoid Greenwashing scams and influence the energy companies in your area to offer better alternatives.

Send a copy of the attached questionnaire to the Customer Service director of you local utility. If you cc it to the editor of your local newspaper at the same time, you are more likely to get a response.

Customer Name __________________________________________
Customer Address __________________________________

Company Name
Date Completed
Name/Title of Person Completing Survey

1. What is the mix of energy sources in percentages terms provided by the utility? Is this information provided to consumers on a regular basis?
___% Coal ___% Natural Gas ___% Large-scale Hydroelectric ___% Total Dirty Power Percentage
___% Oil ___% Nuclear ___% Municipal Incineration ___% Total Clean Power Percentage
___% Solar ___% Wind ___% Other Clean Renewables

2. Do you offer alternative energy packages? _____
Can I get 100% renewable energy? _____
If not, what is the highest percentage of renewable sources you offer? _____
What would be the rest of the mix? ___% Coal ___% Oil ___% Natural Gas ___% Nuclear ___% Hydroelectric ___% Other Renewable ___%

3. Do you have plans to invest in clean renewable energy sources? _____

4. What do you project your future energy mix to be in the future (next 5-10 years)? _____

5. Are all your plants in compliance with current national Clean Air Act standards? _____

6. Do you provide services or incentives to encourage energy efficiency, e.g., free energy efficiency services like weatherization or compact fluorescent light bulb distribution? _____

email us at earthday2000@juno.com


march 2000

©1999 Earth Day 2000