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President Trump signs a spending bill to avert a government shutdown; it's deadline day for cities to opt out of a federal opioid settlement; and a new report says unsafe toys still are in stores.

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Affordable housing legislation was introduced in Congress yesterday, following the first debate questions about housing. Plus, Israeli PM Bibi Netanyahu was indicted for fraud, bribery, and breach of trust, just days after the Trump administration’s policy greenlighting Israeli settlement of the West Bank. And finally, former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg continues his slow and steady potential entry into the race.

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Michigan AG Asked to Drop Pushback of Mercury Standards

The Mercury and Air Toxics Standards require coal plants to reduce mercury pollution. (Pixabay)
The Mercury and Air Toxics Standards require coal plants to reduce mercury pollution. (Pixabay)
March 14, 2016

LANSING, Mich. - An environmental group and other concerned Michiganders are asking state Attorney General Bill Schuette to halt attempts to block regulations to reduce a known neurotoxin.

Despite the Supreme Court's recent denial of requests by Michigan and other states to stay the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, Schuette has not stopped efforts to restrict the measure. Howard Learner, president and executive director of the Environmental Law and Policy Center, said continuing litigation before the District of Columbia Court of Appeals is not in the best interest of the state and public health.

"Mercury's a neurotoxin. It produces fetal brain damage, it slows the development of IQ and it hurts kids' learning ability," he said. "Mercury, once it's in a pregnant woman's bloodstream, passes through the placental barrier; it affects fetal brain development and it harms children."

Schuette and other opponents have argued that the new rules are federal overreach and expensive for utilities to implement. But Learner says Consumers Energy and DTE already are set to comply with the standards with plans to install modern pollution-control equipment on coal plants. The final rule is expected by mid-April.

Learner said the push to block the mercury rules could hurt utilities in Michigan. The irony, he said, is that Shuette "is potentially continuing litigation that would reward utilities in other states that have not yet installed mercury-pollution control equipment and put them at a competitive advantage over Consumers Energy and DTE."

Learner said the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has acknowledged the threat posed by mercury contamination in the Great Lakes. In the wake of Flint's water crisis, he said, more vigilance is needed in protecting public health.

He called on Shuette "to stand up for healthy kids and clean water, for our coal plants to reduce mercury pollution, and for us to move on and learn the lessons that have happened in the state for the last several months."

According to initial assessments from the Environmental Protection Agency, the standards could result in between $37 billion and $90 billion in health and environmental benefits annually. That analysis is being updated by the agency.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - MI