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Concerned Arkansans Advocate for Public Health at Atlanta EPA Coal Hearing

July 27, 2011

May 26, 2011

Atlanta, GA- On Thursday, May 26, concerned citizens, including mothers, students, medical professionals and faith leaders flocked to Atlanta to support the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed mercury and air toxics standard. The Atlanta EPA public hearing is the sole hearing in the South, with the only other two nationwide hearings taking place in Chicago and Philadelphia.

Rel Corbin, a long time Sierra Club volunteer who made the 1,000 mile round trip drive from Little Rock stated that, “Toxics that come out of coal plant smoke stacks affect all living things, and we cannot keep on concentrating these poisons in our air and water and expect to get away with it. I thought that we were supposed to be stewards of this Earth.”

Currently, there are no national limits on the amount of mercury and air toxics that power plants spew into the air, even though according to the EPA, coal plants are the largest human-caused source of mercury air emissions. (http://www.agfc.com/fishing/Pages/MercuryAdvisories.aspx). Mercury emissions fall into streams, where they bioaccumulate as methylmercury in wildlife and fish. Mercury exposure can cause serious neurological and developmental problems in children, babies and developing fetuses.

Lev Guter, Associate Organizing Representative stated, “The only way we are going to move beyond coal and towards a renewable energy economy is if we realize the true cost of dirty fossil fuels. The true public health tolls of coal come in the form of asthmatic children and pregnant mothers who fear that eating fish will damage their babies’ chances of leading healthy and productive lives.”

The EPA’s proposed federal standard, if finalized, would for the first time in the nation’s history reduce mercury emitted from coal power plants. The protections would reduce coal plant mercury emissions by 91%, hydrochloric acid by 91%, soot by 55%, and the EPA estimates that 17,000 premature deaths would be avoided each year. The standard would also prevent 120,000 cases of asthma.

Arkansas coal plants spew out thousands of pounds of mercury each year, and mercury contaminates more than six million acres of freshwater lakes and 46,000 miles of streams across the United States. Arkansas currently has no state level mercury protections on coal plants. Arkansas power plants Independence, White Bluff and Flint Creek together emit more than 1,200 lbs of mercury every year.

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