The big picture – Mass Bass Federation Conservation Director Speaks Out

Of interest is the following editorial appearing in the Worcester Telegram written by a friend of Manchaug Pond, Eric Kaplan the Conservation Director of the Mass Bass Federation:

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A win for the environment

By Erik Kaplan

The problem is serious. More than 500 power plants in the U.S. belch 48 tons of mercury pollution each year.

During the recent holiday season, most Americans were busy making their lists and checking them twice, and weren’t paying attention to whether Congress was being naughty or nice. Fortunately, President Obama and the Environmental Protection Agency gave us a big dose of holiday cheer — new limits on mercury and other toxic air pollutants that spew out of coal and oil-fired power plants.

Some in Congress are still preparing to deliver the proverbial “lump of coal” not just to our stockings, but to our lungs, to our airways and, most frighteningly, to our children’s brains, by blocking clean air safeguards against harmful air pollution from mercury and other pollutants. But the Obama administration’s action will make it a bit harder for polluters and their allies to threaten our health.

The problem is serious. More than 500 power plants in the U.S. belch 48 tons of mercury pollution each year. That mercury falls into our waterways through rain and snow, washes off the land and builds up in fish and the animals that consume fish — other fish, black ducks, loons, eagles and humans.

Mercury is a potent neurotoxin that is especially dangerous to children and pregnant women. Mercury exposure affects a child’s ability to walk, talk, read, write and learn. Until now, there were no national limits to how much toxic mercury pollution a coal plant could pump into the air. The mercury contamination problem in the U.S. is so widespread that up to one in ten women of childbearing age is likely to have mercury levels in her blood high enough to put her baby at risk for mercury poisoning.

Every angler and hunter knows that a successful outdoor experience depends on a healthy environment. Yet every state has a fish consumption advisory for mercury. Almost half of U. S. lakes and reservoirs have mercury amounts exceeding safe levels. Massachusetts has 125 bodies of water where the fish can’t be eaten at all, or can be eaten only in small amounts and infrequently. Nearly all fish and shellfish contain traces of mercury, according to EPA. Who wants to take home a mercury-laden fish for dinner?

The new limits will cut mercury emissions from power plants by 91 percent, acid gas pollution by 91 percent, and particulate matter by 30 percent. These reductions, combined with the forthcoming “cross-state” rule, will translate into $340 billion in reduced health care costs and healthier lives. In addition to mercury and arsenic, power plants emit lead, other heavy metals, dioxin and acid gases that threaten public health. Even in small amounts these pollutants are linked to cancer, heart disease, neurological damage, birth defects, asthma attacks and premature death.

This could prevent up to 11,000 heart attacks and 120,000 asthma attacks a year and save more than 17,000 lives over the next year alone. In fact, the health benefits associated with these updated standards are $59 billion to $140 billion in 2016. This means that for every dollar spent to reduce pollution from power plants, we get $5 to $13 in health benefits.

The truth is simple: Industry leaders and their Washington lobbyists don’t care about our kids; they only care about their bottom line. But for me and for parents everywhere, the bottom line is the health and safety of our kids. We need to protect the clean air and public health policies that work for our families and protect our kids. We need to do everything we can to reduce harmful air pollution from toxics like mercury and arsenic and oppose the big polluters who say our kids aren’t worth the cost of reducing these dangerous emissions. I applaud the Obama administration for taking bold steps to do just that.

Erik Kaplan is the President of the Massachusetts Bass Federation.