Sens. Tom Carper, D-Delaware, and Susan Collins, R-Maine, recently reintroduced the Comprehensive National Mercury Monitoring Act, a bipartisan bill that would establish a national mercury monitoring network to protect human health, safeguard fisheries and track the environmental effects of emissions reductions.
The senators previously introduced this bill in August 2018.
Mercury is a potent neurotoxin of significant ecological and public health concern, especially for children and pregnant women. An estimated 200,000 children born in the U.S. each year are exposed to levels of mercury in the womb that are high enough to impair neurological development. Scientists, however, must rely on limited information to understand the critical linkages between mercury emissions and environmental response and human health. To design, implement and assess solutions to the problem of mercury pollution, scientists need comprehensive long-term data. This bipartisan bill would address this discrepancy and help to acquire critical data.
“Exposure to mercury, a powerful neurotoxin, can inflict long-lasting and even fatal damage, especially in babies and young children,” said Carper. “Despite the significant reduction in cases of children exposed to mercury pollution in recent years — progress due in part to efforts to reduce mercury and air toxic emissions from coal-fired power plants — more than 200,000 babies are still exposed to unsafe levels of mercury annually. Our bipartisan bill would establish a nationwide mercury monitoring system to better protect communities and to collect data on the impacts of this dangerous toxin. As the Trump administration tries to move forward with dismantling commonsense mercury emission reduction standards, efforts like this one should send a clear message that reducing mercury pollution is a popular, bipartisan goal.”
Mercury emissions from power plants are regulated under the Clean Air Act, through the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards. In December 2018, the Environmental Protection Agency released a proposal that determined it is no longer “appropriate and necessary” to regulate mercury and toxic air pollution from coal- and oil-fired plants.
The Comprehensive National Mercury Monitoring Act has been endorsed by the American Lung Association, the Biodiversity Research Institute, the Environmental Health Strategy Center, the League of Conservation Voters and the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Specifically, the Comprehensive National Mercury Monitoring Act would:
— Direct the Environmental Protection Agency, in conjunction with the Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Geological Survey, the National Park Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, and other appropriate federal agencies, to establish a national mercury monitoring program to measure and monitor mercury levels in the air and watersheds; water and soil chemistry; and marine, freshwater and terrestrial organisms across the nation.
— Establish a scientific advisory committee to advise on the establishment, site selection, measurement, recording protocols and operations of the monitoring program.
— Establish a centralized database for existing and newly collected environmental mercury data that can be freely accessed on the Internet and is comprised of data that is compatible with similar international efforts.
— Require a report to Congress every two years on the program, including trends, and an assessment of the reduction in mercury deposition rates that need to be achieved to prevent adverse human and ecological effects every four-years.
— Authorize $95 million over three years to carry out this legislation.
The full text of the bill is available at bit.ly/2VYHlqJ