Ecology Center argues for reductions in pollution from coal-burning at EPA hearing
The Ecology Center’s Brad van Guilder was one of the dozens of Michigan residents who boarded the "Bus for Clean Air" to Chicago in late May to support national air quality standards to protect us from mercury, arsenic and lead.
Van Guilder spoke at a hearing convened by the Environmental Protection Agency on proposed new rules that would ultimately reduce mercury emissions from coal-burning power plants by over 90 percent, a monumental step forward to protect public health and air quality.
Van Guilder, long-time southeast Michigan organizer at the Ecology Center, is coordinating the Center’s “No-Coal Project,” part of a statewide coalition to oppose the construction and expansion of coal-fired power plants in Michigan.
A recent report found that coal-fired power plants in Michigan emitted 4,012 pounds of toxic mercury pollution in 2009, the equivalent of nearly 2 million mercury thermometers.
“This mercury often ends up in the Great Lakes and other lakes and rivers in the state, contaminating the waters and the fish populating them,” van Guilder said. “Eating mercury-contaminated fish is a chief pathway to exposure. Because their brains and central nervous systems are still developing, fetuses, infants and young children are particularly vulnerable to mercury, and exposure can result in developmental delays, reduced IQ, mental retardation, and behavioral problems.
At the EPA hearing, van Guilder presented along with Al Williams of the Detroit NAACP, as well as many others. “Our focus is on the health effects of coal for Michigan residents, and in my remarks, I emphasized the economic and disproportionate burden of asthma on the poor,” van Guilder said.
“I also highlighted how the 1990 revisions to the Clean Air Act caused medical and solid waste incinerators to bear more of the true costs of their operation instead of displacing those costs onto people and the environment,” van Guilder said. “Those revisions led to many alternative options for waste reduction and disposal, as well as dramatic improvements in pollution controls, but power plants have avoided these requirements for more than 20 years with delaying tactics.”
"Mercury from coal plants is a toxic threat to every person living and breathing in the United States," said Tiffany Hartung of Michigan Sierra Club, which organized the “Bus for Clean Air.” "Right now, there are no national limits on how much of this poison power plants can spew into the air, and it's time for that to change."
EcoLink — June 2011 An online publication of the Ecology Center