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Amid growing concerns over the danger mercury contamination poses to the health of Minnesota's children and the safety of our water and fish, House DFL lawmakers are introducing legislation to limit mercury emissions from coal-burning power plants in the state by 90% before 2012.
"This plan will get us more mercury reductions sooner than the Governor's bill, with less bureaucracy," said Rep. Carlos Mariani of St. Paul. "The Governor has the power to implement mercury reductions without legislation; if he was serious about making us safe from toxic mercury he would have made these changes already."
The lawmakers emphasized that further mercury reductions will come through energy conservation and use of renewable energies. "Instead of spending millions to clean up mercury pollution, doesn't it make more sense for us to invest in energy conservation and renewables like wind and solar that emit zero mercury?" said Rep. Brita Sailer of Park Rapids.
Even further mercury reductions could come from increased recycling of fluorescent light bulbs, says Rep. Melissa Hortman of Brooklyn Park, who is authoring bills this session to encourage the practice. "Most consumers don't even know that fluorescent light bulbs contain mercury, or that it's illegal to throw them in the garbage. By recycling fluorescent light bulbs, consumers can take 100 pounds of mercury out of the environment every year."
The costs of inaction to children's health are serious, stressed Rep. Maria Ruud of Minnetonka, a Nurse Practitioner. " Mercury can have a dangerous effect on fetal development. Additionally, young children are 4 to 5 times more sensitive to mercury because their nervous systems are still developing. This has real human and economic costs that we cannot afford to ignore."
Rep. Keith Ellison of Minneapolis added that low-income communities bear the brunt of these health threats. “This is clearly a matter of environmental justice," Ellison said. “By far, the single, largest source of mercury pollution in Minnesota and the rest of the United States is coal-burning electric power plants. Those plants are also disproportionately located in or near low-income neighborhoods or rural areas with high concentrations of poverty."