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MN Mom Joins Others to Testify Against Relaxed Mercury Standards

Overall, larger and longer-lived fish including northern pike build up the most mercury because they eat many smaller fish that contain mercury. (fws.gov)
Overall, larger and longer-lived fish including northern pike build up the most mercury because they eat many smaller fish that contain mercury. (fws.gov)
March 26, 2019

ST. PAUL, Minn. — A recommended rollback on standards for mercury and other toxic pollutants drew moms, dads and kids to Washington, D.C., last week to publicly denounce the proposal.

Mary Lyons, an Ojibwa elder from Minnesota, joined the Moms Clean Air Force at the offices of the Environmental Protection Agency to speak against a proposal that would weaken the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards - an Obama-era rule that sets limits from coal-fired power plants. To Lyons, a rollback of standards makes no sense, because mercury is known to be a neurotoxic heavy metal that interferes with normal brain development.

"You don't have to have a doctor's degree of knowledge to know common sense,” Lyons said. “And this just surrenders the healthy life for your grandchildren and does not make sense."

In Minnesota, nine coal plants have reduced mercury and air toxics under the current government standards, and mercury pollution overall has decreased 84 percent since 2011. The Trump administration maintains that the cost of mitigating mercury pollution outweighs the benefits, although costs to retrofit plants has been significantly lower than original estimates.

When mercury gets into the air from the smokestacks of coal-burning power plants, it falls on waterways and gets absorbed by fish - meaning people are exposed through eating contaminated fish. Minnesota has more than 1,500 bodies of water with fish advisories because of mercury contamination.

And Lyons said she doesn't want that number to rise because of more lenient standards.

"It's just not for us, but it's for all people of Mother Earth, all the animals, all the vegetations, all the waterways," she said. "And we knew it, because being from Minnesota - they say 10,000 lakes, well, we're over 11,000 lakes."

About 39 percent of utility-scale electricity generation in Minnesota came from coal-fired electric power plants in 2017, down from 49 percent in 2014

Information on mercury in Minnesota is available at MomsCleanAirforce.org.

Roz Brown, Public News Service - MN