Settlement reached over mercury from coal plant

Clean Wisconsin, Sierra Club, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and Wisconsin Public Service announced March 21 a settlement in a legal dispute over how much mercury can be emitted from a coal-fired power plant in Rothschild.

“The Weston coal plant emits toxic pollution, including mercury, which can cause neurological and developmental problems, especially in children,” Elizabeth Wheeler, senior staff attorney at Clean Wisconsin, said in a news release issued March 21. “It’s critical that a protective mercury limit is in place for Weston 4 to protect public health.”

Wisconsin law requires that newer coal-fired power plants such as Weston 4  limit mercury emissions to the maximum degree achievable. Testing of Weston 4’s equipment showed the plant could reduce mercury to 0.8 pounds per trillion British thermal units (lbs/tBTU), but WPS contested the limit, hoping for a far less stringent requirement.

Wheeler said, “Given all its health impacts, weak mercury limitations are not an option. While it has been a long road to this agreement, today’s settlement upholds the DNR’s more stringent limit.”

Mercury is a neurotoxin that can affect the brain, liver and kidneys and cause developmental disorders in children.

The EPA estimates more than 10,000 children born each year in Wisconsin are prenatally exposed to elevated levels of mercury, an exposure that puts them at risk of having lower IQs and reduced memory.

Also, according to Clean Wisconsin, every inland body of water in Wisconsin is under a fish consumption advisory due to mercury pollution.

“We support the DNR’s efforts to maintain protective permit limits,” Wheeler said. “Coal plants are Wisconsin’s No. 1 source of mercury pollution, and until they can be replaced with clean energy sources, their toxic emissions must be controlled.”

More about mercury & coal

Clean Wisconsin’s Enviropedia.