Murray Joins Senate Colleagues in Condemning New Administration Mercury Rules

Sep 13 2005

Washington state’s senior Senator expresses disappointment in defeat of resolution

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) today voted in favor of a joint resolution condemning a Bush Administration rule that relaxes regulations on mercury emissions from power plants in the United States. Murray, an original cosponsor of the resolution, has been strongly opposed to allowing increased mercury emissions into the atmosphere.

"The Bush Administration's mercury emissions rule rolls back decades of progress in environmental protection, and puts public health and safety at greater risk," Murray said. "This resolution was meant to send a message to the President that we need aggressive plans to improve our air and water quality – not a relaxation of federal standards. It is extremely unfortunate that some of my colleagues do not see the importance of doing that."

The Senate voted 47-51 to defeat the bipartisan resolution, which is known as the Leahy-Collins resolution. It seeks, under the Congressional Review Act, to reverse a rule issued by the Bush Administration in 2003 and put into effect by the United States Environmental Protection Agency on March 15 of this year.

In the last days of the Clinton Administration, the EPA determined mercury to be a toxic pollutant and thus subject to strict regulation under the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990. By the end of 2003, the EPA was to formulate a plan for reducing toxic emissions from power plants. Under the Clinton plan, all power plants that emit mercury would be required to install specific control systems by 2008, helping to reduce pollution by as much as 90 percent.

In December 2003, however, the Bush Administration announced a proposal to remove power plants from Clean Air Act jurisdiction. The plan would significantly relax the restrictions set in place by the Clean Air Act, calling for only a 70 percent reduction in emissions by 2018 – ten years later than the law intended.

Throughout the development of this rule, numerous members of Congress, environmental and health groups, and fifteen state Attorneys General have asked the Administration to rewrite the rule. Those groups have expressed their support for the Leahy-Collins resolution. In both March 2004 and 2005, Senator Murray joined dozens of her Senate colleagues in sending letters to the EPA Administrators asking that the administration's rule – which contains verbatim industry language – be withdrawn and rewritten to properly safeguard public health.

"I urge the President to reconsider this rule, and his position on mercury emissions," Murray said. "The health and well being of future generations is being put at risk by emissions of this toxic pollutant. We need to work together in a bipartisan fashion to cut these emissions right now."