Pallone Hosts Field Hearing to Hear Opinions on President Bush's Mercury Proposal

Apr 26, 2004

Trenton, NJ ---With a deadline set for Thursday, April 30 for all public comments on a Bush administration proposal that would weaken mercury regulations under the Clean Air Act, U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, hosts a field hearing at the New Jersey Statehouse today to discuss the public health, environmental, and economic impact that this proposal would have on New Jersey. Pallone will hear testimony from state officials, health care, environmental, fish and wildlife representatives and the public.

Mercury is a potent neurotoxin that poses serious health risks to children and women of childbearing age and has been linked to developmental disorders in children. More than a third of the mercury deposited on New Jerseys land and waters comes from coal-fired power plants and incinerators downwind of the state.  New Jersey environmental officials have taken legal action to try and limit mercury emissions from other states and have issued statewide fish consumption advisories warning of high mercury levels found in local waters.

When the Clinton administration labeled mercury a hazardous air pollutant under the Clean Air Act, it required coal-fired power plants to reduce their mercury emissions by as much as 90 percent by the end of 2007. But now, the Bush administration, through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), has proposed a new rule that would delay the deadline, allowing for a 29 percent reduction by 2010 and a 69 percent reduction by 2018. The proposal goes one step further and softens how mercury pollution is classified by the EPA, allowing "pollution credits" to be bought and sold by polluters.

The New Jersey congressman also announced today plans to introduce legislation this week that will require the federal government to ensure the public is provided with adequate notice and education on the effects of mercury exposure, including a requirement that mercury health advisories are posted or made available at all businesses where the potential for mercury exposure exists.

Pallone will deliver all the testimony from Monday's hearing to EPA in Washington so it can be included in the EPA's final record of public comments on the proposed rule.

The following officials join Pallone at today's field hearing:

New Jersey Department of Environment Protection (DEP) Commissioner Bradley Campbell

Dr. George Lambert, Director, NIH/USEPA Center For Childhood Neurotoxicology and Exposure Assessment

Dr. Alan Stern, Chief, Bureau for Risk Analysis, Division of Science, Research and Technology New Jersey DEP

Dr. Michael Gochfeld, Environment and Occupational Health Sciences Institute

W. Robert Campbell, New Jersey Sierra Club

Emily Rusch, New Jersey Public Interest Research Group

Tom Fote, Jersey Coast Anglers