Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Mercury decision is welcome

In just a few words, Idaho Gov. Jim Risch literally struck a major blow for perpetual clean air enforcement for the state by deciding not to join a federal shell game that does nothing to reduce hazardous smokestack fallout.

The governor said it well.

"The health implications of mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants far outweigh any economic benefits."

The program Risch rejected joining allows polluting industry to buy clean air credits from companies not polluting the air. So, Idaho's future might well have included smokestack industries belching mercury, which on paper were legal because the polluter bought clean air credits.

Ironically, within days of the governor's decision, the Department of Environmental Quality issued an air pollution alert for Boise because of forest fires.

Consider the importance of this—if nature-made pollutants can't be controlled, then all steps are vital to preventing manmade pollutants from poisoning Idaho's celebrated pure air.

Idaho's next challenge is to find ways to reduce or end downwind air pollution from Oregon and Nevada industries.

A nearby Oregon cement plant is emitting 2,153 pounds of mercury each year—10 times the amount the coal-fired power plant proposed for Jerome would've emitted. Nevada gold mines are pumping mercury into southern Idaho's air. In fact, the mines there account for 11 percent of all U.S. industrial mercury emissions.

If the standard set by Gov. Risch can be maintained, Idaho could be a stark contrast to Washington's unwillingness to show environmental vision.

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