New Hampshire will reap the benefits of placing limits on power plant emissions
A tremendous public health victory was announced to the Granite State in December: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Regional Administrator Curt Spalding announced the first nationwide standards for mercury and air toxics pollution from power plants, which would reduce mercury pollution from power plants by 91 percent.This standard will significantly cut emissions of toxic air pollutants that are linked to cancer, heart disease, neurological damage, birth defects, asthma attacks and even premature death. It will likely prevent more than 12,000 trips to hospitals and save 11,000 lives each year.New Hampshire has long struggled with mercury contamination. We have passed strong state standards to reduce emissions of this dangerous neurotoxin from local sources, including power plants.But pollution ignores state lines. Midwestern power plants are the largest sources of mercury pollution. Coal-fired plants emit 10 times more mercury, soot and smog than the next mercury source. This pollution drifts in on predominant winds and rains down on our waterways.Mercury contamination is so widespread that New Hampshire has fish advisories, warning women of childbearing age not to eat any freshwater fish caught in the state. Our geographic disadvantage necessitated a nationwide mercury standard.This summer, more than 800,000 Americans submitted comments in support of the new standard - the most comments ever received in support of an EPA rule. Hundreds of Granite Staters added their names, demonstrating public support.Furthermore, our delegates in Washington - including Rep. Charles Bass and Sens. Kelly Ayotte and Jeanne Shaheen - came together in support of the mercury standard despite the political gridlock in Congress.But the coal industry and its allies in Congress have successfully delayed protecting public health and cutting mercury and other toxic air pollutants from power plants, even though technology to control toxic air pollution is well-developed, widely available and already being used by some power plants. That's why the EPA's latest mercury standard is so momentous.New Hampshire families will reap the benefits. Right now, the EPA estimates mercury pollution is so widespread that one in 10 American women of childbearing age has enough mercury in her blood to put her baby at risk, should she become pregnant. Children who are exposed to even low-dosage levels of mercury in utero can suffer from impaired brain functions, learning disabilities and lower IQs.Our air and bodies are not places for toxic pollution. Granite Staters know this, which is why they spoke out in record numbers in favor of cleaning up the largest sources of this pollution.Jeanie Holt is president of the New Hampshire Public Health Association. Jessica O'Hare is an advocate for Environment New Hampshire.