Friday, March 17, 2006

Senate OKs resolution on mercury study

Bill also recommends keeping Idaho's mercury emissions cap at zero

Express Staff Writer

State senators are interested in knowing more about mercury—current levels, sources, and effects on health and the environment.

The Senate passed a resolution Monday, March 13, to request the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality compile a study on mercury, and recommended keeping Idaho's current mercury emission cap at zero.

The resolution is in response to Sempra Generation's proposal to construct a 600-megawatt coal-fired power plant in southern Idaho. Such power plants are one of many sources of mercury in the environment, according to the DEQ.

Sen. Clint Stennett, D-Ketchum, introduced a bill this session that would have required Idaho keep its mercury cap at zero, effectively preventing Sempra's project to go forward. He said the Senate was hesitant to write that into law, but was amenable to a resolution.

"A bill demands and a resolution requests," he said Wednesday. "It doesn't have the force of law but it reflects the will of the Senate. I still think it sends a strong message to the (DEQ)."

The resolution advises Idaho DEQ to provide for an administrative rule opting out of the mercury cap and trade program, which would allow states to trade pollution credits.

"The key language in it, why I like it, is that it requests the agency to not buy into the cap and trade rules," Stennett said. "To me, that's a big deal. It's 80 percent of what we wanted. It's a very clear signal from the Legislature that we want to know more about mercury. When you send a message to a state agency, they listen. At their peril, they do not."

Resolutions, like bills, have to be passed by both the House and Senate and signed by the governor.

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