Published November 1, 2005 | November 2005 issue
More than a dozen environmental, church and public health groups have asked the state Board of Environmental Review to require power plants in Montana to dramatically reduce mercury pollution on a much faster timeline than federal proposals.
Under a plan proposed by the Northern Cheyenne tribe, the Montana Nurses' Association, the Montana Environmental Information Center and other groups, plants would have to install mercury-control devices and strive for 90 percent reductions by 2011. The plants wouldn't face immediate penalties for falling short of that goal, however; the state would work with each power producer to set a mercury-reduction standard that it can realistically attain.
PPL Montana, the state's major power generator, opposed the proposal, arguing that stricter state mercury standards could raise operating costs for existing and proposed coal-fired plants in Montana.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed a less ambitious goal of curtailing mercury pollution by 70 percent nationwide by 2018. The EPA plan would cap mercury emission levels and let power plants trade "pollution credits" to achieve an overall reduction in emissions.