Alexander Says Federal Mercury Rule May Not Be Strong Enough To Protect Tennessee Citizens

Supports Governor’s Inquiry into Problem of Mercury Deposits in Smokies

Posted on November 22, 2006

U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) today said the federal government’s current rule on mercury emissions may not be strong enough to protect Tennessee and urged Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen to continue his investigation into the extent to which coal-fired power plants are contributing to the problem of mercury deposits in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. “If the investigation shows that the Smokies are being harmed by mercury, then Tennessee may wish to adopt measures that go beyond the current federal mercury program for power plants, as some states are doing,” Alexander wrote. “The bottom line is that the federal mercury rule may not be strong enough to protect Tennessee citizens. "I concur that you are on exactly the right track in convening all interested parties…to assist the state in designing and executing a study that will allow you to develop and implement the most appropriate protective regulatory program,” added Alexander, the chairman of the Senate Energy Subcommittee. The state, under the direction of Tennessee Department of Environmental Conservation Deputy Commissioner Paul Sloan, has brought together representatives from the National Park Service, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), TVA, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, as well as park and wildlife advocates, to assist in the effort. Alexander said a growing number of studies by the EPA and others are demonstrating that mercury tends to accumulate downwind of large mercury air emissions sources, such as coal-fired plants. The Smokies are already heavily affected by power plant emissions such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides. Alexander has introduced bipartisan legislation with Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE), the Clean Air Planning Act, that goes "farther and faster” than Bush Administration proposals to clean up coal burning plants by removing sulfur, nitrogen, and mercury from the air. The bill would cut mercury emissions by 90 percent in 2015. LETTER: The Honorable Phil Bredesen Governor State of Tennessee 7th and Charlotte Avenues Nashville, Tennessee 37243 Dear Phil, I am writing to support your inquiry, under the direction of TDEC Deputy Commissioner Paul Sloan, into the extent to which coal-fired power plants, both those located in Tennessee and those within the region, are contributing to the problem of mercury deposition in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. A growing number of studies by EPA and others are demonstrating that mercury tends to accumulate downwind of large mercury air emissions sources, such as coal-fired power plants. The Smokies are already heavily affected by other power plant emissions, such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides. According to Jim Renfro, Chief Air Resources Specialist at the park, “the park has high observed levels of mercury deposition, sensitive resources, and is down-wind of large mercury sources, which warrants further investigation.” If investigation shows that the Smokies are being harmed by mercury, then Tennessee may wish to adopt measures that go beyond the current federal mercury program for power plants, as some other states are doing. The bottom line is that the federal mercury rule may not be strong enough to protect Tennessee citizens. Therefore, I believe that you are on exactly the right track in convening all interested parties, including the National Park Service, EPA, TVA, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and park and wildlife advocates to assist the state in designing and executing a study that will allow you to develop the most appropriate protective regulatory program. Sincerely, Lamar Alexander United States Senate