Pen pals

September 20, 2005 at 12:30 am (Environment)

In spring term I took a class called Environmental Policy, and I wrote my term paper on mercury contamination and policies to reduce it. Specifically, how EPA addresses mercury emissions from coal power plants. I used my old addresses in WV and PA to contact relevant Congresspersons in those states, and to date, no Rep. has responded to me, and 3 Senators have (thanks, Rick Santorum, you asshole). Of course none of the correspondence arrived in time to include in the paper, and today, I heard from Senator Specter. Apparently he has been busy with other things. Below is his response…he proposes exactly the policy instrument I came up with in my paper. Maybe I should run for office when I turn 30.

Dear Mr. JB:

Thank you for contacting me in regard to the recent vote in the United States Senate on S. J. Res. 20 regarding mercury pollution.

I believe mercury pollution is a real problem, particularly for vulnerable populations including children. Given these concerns, I support efforts to reduce mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants, which account for forty-two percent of U.S. emissions. This is in line with my support for many years for clean coal technologies, which will allow our nation to utilize our most abundant natural resource in a cleaner, more efficient manner.

Debate on this resolution has revolved around two regulatory approaches – a Maximum Available Control Technology (MACT) rule or a “cap-and-trade” rule. I suggest that there is a third option that combines elements of both. A MACT system is enormously expensive on its own, costing up to $358 billion according to the Energy Information Administration compared to $2 billion estimated by EPA for a cap-and-trade approach. However, a cap-and-trade-only system is inadequate on reducing pollution levels around specific plants, referred to as “hot spots.” The Leahy-Collins resolution would tie EPA’s hands by restricting it to a MACT-only approach.

Under a third option, EPA could set a national emissions level, based on the best available science to protect public health and the environment, and implement a cap-and-trade system to meet this goal with the addition of measures to take care of hot spots, EPA could require reductions at specific plants. To this end, I have written the Administrator of the EPA urging this hybrid approach, which would meet environmental goals while balancing the implementation costs faced by consumers.

I assure my colleagues and my constituents that I will be monitoring this situation as the current mercury rule is litigated in the court system and as EPA considers further mercury emission control options.

I appreciate your taking the time to bring your views on this important matter to my attention. As a United States Senator, it is essential that I be kept fully informed on the issues of concern to my constituents. Should you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact my office or visit my website at Thank you again for writing.

Arlen Specter


1 Comment

  1. rock creek rambler said,

    Screw running, I say we coup.

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