Fishing for mercury emission reductions

Wisconsin State Roundup

Published September 1, 2001  | September 2001 issue

Wisconsin is on its way to becoming the first state in the country to regulate utility mercury emissions, with a final goal of cutting emissions by up to 90 percent over the next 15 years. The proposal stems from growing concern over high mercury levels in the state's 15,000 lakes and warnings on fish consumption by the Department of Natural Resources.

The main regulatory targets are 13 coal-burning power plants in the state, which are responsible for an estimated 40 percent of in-state mercury emissions. The utility industry has testified that the technology does not exist to meet proposed goals, and stringent regulations would not address airborne mercury emissions from other states and countries that end up in Wisconsin lakes and rivers.

State officials have said they hope the regulations will set a policy example for other states to follow in reducing mercury emissions. Public hearings will be held by the DNR, and the Legislature will have to approve final regulations.

Ronald A. Wirtz