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NEW EPA RIGHT-TO-KNOW INITIATIVE WILL
PROVIDE AMERICANS INFORMATION ON MERCURY


Date sent:        Fri, 20 Nov 1998 18:20:05 -0500 (EST)
Subject:          PR NEW EPA RIGHT TO KNOW INIT. WILL PROVIDE 
                  AMERICANS INFO.


!PR/RIGHT TO KNOW INIT. WILL PROVIDE AMERICANS INFOR. ON MERC./SCROLL
FOR RELEASE:   MONDAY, NOVEMBER 16, 1998

NEW EPA RIGHT-TO-KNOW INITIATIVE WILL PROVIDE AMERICANS  INFORMATION 
ON MERCURY

As part of the Clinton Administration's public right-to-know 
initiatives, the U.S.  Environmental Protection Agency today announced 
that it will require most coal-fired electric generating plants to 
make publicly available for the first time ever information concerning 
mercury emissions coming from their smokestacks.  Coal-fired utilities 
are the major source of mercury emissions in the United States.
"Community right-to-know efforts are a hallmark program of the Clinton 
Administration, and one of the most effective tools to solve tough 
environmental problems," said EPA Administrator Carol M. Browner.  
"Putting information about toxic chemical pollution directly into the 
hands of citizens helps them make informed decisions about how to best 
protect the health of their families and work in their communities to 
prevent the pollution in the first place."

Mercury is a heavy metal that, with high exposure, can cause 
developmental problems in fetuses and delay walking and talking in 
children, as well as lowering scores on nervous system function tests.  
Mercury is of particular concern because it persists in the 
environment.  Mercury air emissions can end up in waterways through 
rainfall and runoff and "bioaccumulate," or build up, in the food 
chain.  Mercury is the most frequent cause of fish consumption 
warnings issued by states.  Forty states to date have issued fish 
consumption advisories in at least one body of water. Subsistence 
fishers and women of child-bearing age particularly are advised to pay 
careful attention to such warnings posted by states.

Last February, in a report to Congress evaluating toxic air emissions 
from power plants,  EPA concluded that utilities are the largest 
source of mercury emissions into the air, with one third of all U.S. 
man-made emissions coming from coal-fired plants (virtually no mercury 
is emitted from any other type of  power plant fuel).  The report also 
called for monitoring of power plants to better ascertain the quantity 
and nature of mercury emissions.  Today's action responds to that 
need.  

Under the information collection authority of Section 114 of the 
Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990, EPA will soon send letters to 
utility companies requiring all coal-fired power plants above 25 
megawatts generating capacity (approximately 1400 plants nationwide) 
to sample and test for mercury content of the coal they burn and 
report the results of the testing to the Agency.  EPA will also 
require a sample of 75 plants (randomly selected to include the major 
types of coal and pollution controls, e.g. scrubbers) to perform 
smokestack testing for the amount and type of mercury emissions.  EPA 
will then make the results of these tests available to the public.

EPA will begin collecting the emissions data Jan. 1, 1999, and 
start making it available to the public on the Internet early in  the 
year 2000. 

Congress has directed EPA to consider whether to regulate mercury 
emissions, and the information collected will prove pivitol to that 
assessment.  EPA will use the data for several purposes.  First, it 
will allow EPA to compile the most accurate data ever assembled on 
total mercury emissions from the electric power generating industry.  
Second, the information on the type of mercury emitted will help the 
Agency better determine the degree to which the pollution is  a local 
or a regional or global transport problem (the distance mercury 
travels depends on the type emitted).  Third, the data will aid EPA 
and others in developing mercury emissions control technologies (the 
two basic types of mercury emissions are elemental and oxidized).

Today's action is not a regulation and will not appear in the 
Federal Register; however,  supporting information is accessible 
immediately at website: http://www.epa.gov/ttn/oarpg/t3pfpr.html.  For 
further technical information, contact William Maxwell of EPA's Office 
of Air Quality Planning and Standards at 919-541-5430 or e-mail him 
at:  maxwell.bill@epa.gov.

                               R-156###

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