Skip to main content

Natural Awakenings Chicago

Midwest Power Plants Polluting Great Lakes Region with Mercury

Jun 24, 2012 06:55PM

A new report, Poisoning the Great Lakes: Mercury Emissions from Coal-Fired Power Plants In the Great Lakes Region, from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) shows that 25 coal-fired power plants account for more than half of the dangerous mercury pollution emitted by the 144 electricity generation facilities in the Great Lakes region and finds that almost 90 percent of the toxic emissions could be eliminated with existing technology.

Ohio emits the largest amount of mercury from coal-fired power plants (21 percent), followed closely by Pennsylvania (20 percent), Indiana (16 percent), Michigan (14 percent), Illinois (11 percent), Wisconsin (9.5 percent), Minnesota (6.5 percent) and New York (2 percent). Plants from outside the region also contribute in lesser amounts.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently issued nationwide rules to require coal-fired power plants to limit airborne mercury emissions and other toxic air pollutants by 2015. The technologies to meet the EPA mercury limits are widely available and effective. Two Chicago area plants have been scheduled to close after decades of negotiation. The Fisk power plant, in Pilsen, will shut down later this year, while Crawford plant, in Little Village, will close in 2014.Great Lakes Fishing

But Senator James Inhofe, (R-OK), recently filed a Congressional Review Act resolution to void health standards reducing mercury and other toxic air pollution from power plants and to permanently block EPA from re-issuing similar safeguards.

Thomas Cmar, an attorney for the NRDC in Chicago, says, “Mercury is a dangerous brain poison that doesn’t belong in our Great Lakes. It puts the health of kids and pregnant women at risk and adds an unwelcome danger to eating what our fishermen catch. That’s why it is so important that we support the EPA standards to reduce mercury pollution by holding polluters accountable. Even more critical is that every single U.S. senator from the region stand up for the lakes by rejecting reckless attempts to derail the long overdue Clean Air Act updates that can help tame this problem.”


To voice your opinion directly to elected officials in Washington, send a personalized message at Tinyurl.com/MercuryStandard.

This report may be downloaded from the NRDC at nrdc.org/air/mercury-in-the-great-lakes.asp.