New federal rules under review would revamp standards for how much mercury could be released into the air by coal-burning power plants. Rich Leopold is executive director of the Iowa Environmental Council. The EPA’s going through a rule-making process and the policies being considered, or early outlines, are “pretty distressing” to the groups concerned about the danger of mercury. The council released a statement saying the federal mercury-emission rules don’t do enough to protect children and pregnant women from dangerous side effects of the toxic element. There are six states including Iowa in the multi-state coalition. Many states have some kind of local environmental council, a consortium of organizations that focus on environmental issues. The groups joining to send their statement to Washington say the new rules will put few controls on plants in states like Iowa. Leopold says states have the power to make their own air-quality standards. Unless a legislature’s taken away that right, he says usually a state public-health, natural-resources, or pollution-control agency has the power to make standards to protect their citizens. Leopold says Iowa does not have a current standard for mercury pollution in Iowa, but does have a “site-specific” approach.When something like a major coal plant will be coming on-line, they work with Iowa’s DNR to work out a management plan and look at mercury emissions, areas that might be affected by them, and what the company can do that’ll be economically possible while being environmentally sound. Leopold says the groups find a trail of memos pointing to the weakening of clean-air rules and downplaying the effects of mercury poisoning. In addition to the Iowa Environmental Council, other participating groups include: Clean Wisconsin, Dakota Resource Council, Environment Colorado, Missouri Coalition for the Environment, Tennessee Environmental Council, and the national organization State Environmental Leadership Program.
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