Environmentalists protest Pam Bondi for joining a suit to block EPA mercury rule

12/13/11 Janelle Irwin
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Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi has joined 24 other states in a lawsuit that would block an Environmental Protection Agency rule to reduce mercury air pollution. But a group of advocates gathered in front of Bondi’s Tampa office today to ask her to drop that suit. The Sierra Club’s Phil Compton is concerned any litigation will put off reducing harmful pollutants in the air and water.

“The EPA is finalizing its mercury and air toxins rule this week that will require the major source of mercury pollution – the power plants that burn coal – to capture virtually all the mercury coming out of their smoke stacks. This is something TECO did a long time ago so TECO supports this new rule, but the other utilities are against it, most of them. And the reason it’s so important to have a national rule is mercury gets into the clouds, it comes down with the rain, it gets into the bottom of the sea and then it gets into the little fish who are eaten by the bigger fish. So the bigger the fish, like a Tuna or a Grouper, the mercury it’s going to have in it.”

Mercury can cause both short-term and long-term health problems. Lynn Rigenberg said women of child bearing age are the most at risk. She is an Emeritus professor of pediatrics at USF and represents the organization Physicians for Social Responsibility. She said women who ingest foods containing mercury can pass dangerous levels of the toxin to their fetus.

“You know, we’ll see a lot of things. We’ll see developmental delay, we’ll see language delays, we’ll see problems with their fine motor skills, we’ll see speech problems, hearing problems. It can be more serious, mental retardation. So, it’s a major, major problem for us and I think we need to do everything to protect the public’s health and especially pregnant women and children.”

Ringenberg said high concentrations of mercury can lead to complications with common health issues that could affect everyone.

“We see more problems with cardiovascular, more problems with asthma, lung disease in adults and children. So it doesn’t just impact children, it impacts all of us in a very, very negative way. So we really need to clean it up and the EPA is doing the right thing.”

That’s why Compton said Bondi made the wrong decision for the wrong reasons.

“Pam Bondi is standing against Florida’s children and the unborn children of future generations and for the polluters who just want to make more money by not installing this new equipment. The new equipment will create jobs, it will help boost the economy, it will cut our public health cost.”

Compton said the improvements made to smokestacks at coal-fired power plants would save nearly 17,000 lives and over 12,000 trips to the hospital each year. That’s why environmental advocates like George Root don’t understand why Bondi and other Attorneys General nationwide would want to stand against the EPA’s findings just to save wealthy electric companies a buck.

“Part of our life and culture and for our very food in the Gulf of Mexico – which is dying from a thousand cuts already – to have another insult upon our estuaries and upon our food sources from mercury, for example, is something were as an individual I have to take a stand and say enough is enough.”

About 25 protesters planned to give Bondi a holiday gift containing silver Christmas ornaments representing the mercury contaminating the state’s waterways. But they were stopped by security and several police officers when they attempted to enter her office. According to Sierra Club’s Phil Compton, after an hour of waiting, a representative for the Attorney General provided an address where the package could be sent. The EPA’s new rule is set to be finalized this Friday.

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They went there to hand deliver a gift to the AG, when her current office is in Tallahassee. With all the research they did, you'd think they'd look that up. Oh, and I guess they didn't research the fact that power stations in Florida are already laying out plans to reduce their emissions, and even have estimated dates of completion. Either that, or they just decided to not include this info to make today's demonstration look better. Idiots...