Proposal by Alexander would help save Smokies

Posted on May 31, 2007

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander should be commended for once again co-sponsoring a bipartisan bill that goes further than a plan by the Bush administration for controlling the harmful emissions of coalfired power plants. Passage of Alexander’s Clean Air/Climate Change Act of 2007 would go a long way to helping reduce the toxic haze that often hangs over the Great Smoky Mountains. “Tourists come to Tennessee to see the Smokies, not the smog,” the state’s senior Republican senator said Tuesday. Alexander and Sen. Joe Lieberman, DConn., have joined together to push for passage of a clean-air bill placing tougher restrictions on mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants. The legislation also seeks to make significant reductions in the level of sulfur and nitrogen coming from the smokestacks of power plants. The Environmental Protection Agency has implemented new regulations that promise to get rid of 70 percent of those mercury emissions by 2018. Alexander doesn’t think that goes far enough. His bill wisely calls for 90 percent of those mercury emissions to be eliminated by 2015. Earlier this week, Alexander also sent a letter to Gov. Phil Bredesen asking Tennessee to establish rules that exceed federal regulations for curtailing mercury pollution from coal-fired power plants. Alexander said there is “good reason to believe that significant levels of mercury” are being deposited in the Smokies, which happen to be “downwind” of several coal-fired plants. These mercury emissions could lead to serious health problems for Tennesseans. As Alexander noted this week, there are signs in grocery stores warning pregnant women to avoid certain kinds of fish because of their mercury levels. Just last month, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation issued a mercury advisory for consumption of fish taken from state lakes and rivers. Alexander’s bill offers a sensible and realistic solution to limit toxic emissions from coal-fired plants. As the senator acknowledged this week, “climate change is real,” and humans are partially to blame. Curtailing the harmful pollutants coming from power plants can help change that.