Health, angling and conservation organizations praise legislature

PRESS RELEASE

New Hampshire Audubon
3 Silk Farm Road, Concord, NH 03301

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 20, 2006

N.H. Senate Passes Mercury and Sulfur Emissions Bill:
Health, angling and conservation organizations praise legislature

CONCORD - Health, angling, forest, and wildlife-related organizations praised the New Hampshire Senate for passing a bill that will significantly reduce mercury and sulfur emissions from the state's coal-fired power plants. The bill (HB 1673), sponsored by Representative Larry Ross (R-Peterborough), was passed by a vote of 22-2 today and now goes to the governor's desk for signing.

The bill requires Public Service of New Hampshire (PSNH) to reduce mercury emissions by at least 80% by 2013, and requires the company to test emissions reduction control technology before 2013 to achieve early reductions of mercury.

"This is a great step forward for the health of our lakes, rivers, wildlife and people" said Bruce Schwaegler, Interim President of New Hampshire Audubon. "Reducing these toxic pollutants in our air and aquatic ecosystems will have a dramatic benefit for loons, herons, bald eagles and other wildlife that inhabits those ecosystems. We congratulate the legislature on their forward thinking and acknowledge the hard work by the coalition of partners that made this possible." New Hampshire Audubon was a leader in both the authoring of the bill and the partnership building process.

"This is the culmination of more than two years of hard work by a partnership involving PSNH, state agencies, non-profit groups and legislators. It shows what can be achieved when we all get around the table and make common sense decisions," said Bob Scott, Director of the state's Air Resource Division at the Department of Environmental Services.

Representative Ross added, "HB 1673 is a good bill for New Hampshire, it will help preserve the environmental quality of our state, which is of direct economic importance, while allowing the state to have a diverse energy mix and maintain reasonable costs for consumers."

The bill calls for far deeper cuts in toxic mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants than the federal rules issued last year by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and would require reductions in emissions to be achieved more than a decade earlier. Unlike the federal version, the bill passed by the N.H. House does not permit PSNH to "trade" mercury emissions with other upwind states. It also requires PSNH to install wet scrubber technology, one of the most advanced and proven control technologies on the market to reduce significant levels of mercury and sulfur emissions. Recently, PSNH received a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to test control technology to reduce mercury from its coal-fired power plants. If passed, reductions achieved from this pilot project will go towards meeting the requirements in HB 1673.

Finally, the bill will virtually eliminate nearly $20 million of sulfur credits currently bought by PSNH from out-of-state coal-fired power plants and subsidized by New Hampshire citizens, which allows PSNH to emit sulfur that exceeds the threshold requirements of the state's Clean Power Act.

Coal-fired power plants are the largest unregulated source of mercury and sulfur in the state. PSNH's Merrimack station in Bow ranks 37th out of 1,100 coal-fired power plants in the nation (2005 report from Environmental Integrity Project, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization) for sulfur emissions. Sulfur, an acid rain pollutant, contributes to respiratory illnesses such as asthma. Daniel Fortin, President and CEO of The American Lung Association of New Hampshire is pleased by today's vote on House Bill 1673. "Sulfur dioxide is a known trigger for asthma symptoms. Passage of this legislation will ultimately result in the reduction of sulfur dioxide emissions; therefore, ALA NH believes this to be a positive step for the lung health of New Hampshire's residents."

Toxic metals like mercury have been found to cause developmental, cognitive and behavioral problems in millions of children, and may be major factors in certain learning disabilities, ADD, dyslexia, juvenile delinquency, and criminality. The extreme toxicity of mercury can be seen from documented effects on wildlife exposed to very low levels of mercury exposure. Because of the extreme toxicity, only ½ gram is required to contaminate the ecosystem and fish of a 10 acre lake to the extent that a health warning would be issued by the government to not eat the fish.

HB 1673 has been endorsed by: New Hampshire Audubon; Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests; New Hampshire Lakes Association; New Hampshire Timberland Owners Association; Business and Industry Association; New Hampshire Chapter of the American Lung Association; New Hampshire B.A.S.S. Federation; Trout Unlimited; Seacoast Science Center; New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services and Public Service of New Hampshire.

About New Hampshire Audubon
New Hampshire Audubon is an independent statewide membership organization whose mission is to protect New Hampshire's natural environment for wildlife and for people. It operates five nature centers throughout the state that provide educational programs for children and adults. It is also involved in statewide conservation research and wildlife monitoring projects, protects thousands of acres of wildlife habitat, and advocates for sound public policy on environmental issues. For information on New Hampshire Audubon, including membership, volunteering, programs, and publications, call 224-9909 or go to www.nhaudubon.org.