Monday, January 24, 2005

Utility industry's "Quick! Silver"-therapy

Election over, it's time to recall some of the things that whizzed by us when we were otherwise occupied. Consider the Bush Administration's "Clear Skies" initiative, the perfect example of 1984-speak, seeing as how most knowledgeable observers (including a National Research Council panel) believe it will not clear the skies but make them dirtier. Among the toxins covered by Clear Skies is the heavy metal mercury, a recognized neuro- and developmental toxin (according to the EPA's own mercury website). Our chief source of environmental mercury is emissions from coal-fired power plants. Under a Clinton Administration proposal the nation's 1,100 coal-fired plants would have to reduce mercury emissions 90 percent within three years, but under "Clear Lies" they have until 2025 to reduce mercury by 70 percent. Is that clear? The cost to the utility industry, by EPA estimates, is less than 1 percent of its annual revenues (Cathy Zollo, Naples (FL) Daily News).

Apparently that's too much. Of course the utility industry is already committed to wise and responsible stewardship--of their profits. They've made substantial investments already via contributions to the campaign of President Doesn't Care and his congressional toadies which paid off handsomely, resulting in EPA stenography of industry dictated mercury rules.

We're not speaking figuratively, here. We're talking literally. A year ago when everyone was fastened on the Democratic primary campaigns, The Washington Post (link via The Seattle times ) reported that industry lobbyists had written large portions of the mercury rule. Senator Patrick Leahy asked EPA Administrator Mike Leavitt for an explanation in a written request that included as attachments a series of incriminating documents. You can see them for yourself via links here. Particularly revealing is Attachment G (.pdf), a side-by-side language comparison of the "EPA proposed rule" and industry memos/reports.

This Administration doesn't care if its mercury policy jeopardizes the potential of our children as long as it rewards their patrons in the utility industry. What does this say about their values?

My pharmacology professor in medical school used to say the only disease elemental silver was good for was "itchy palm disease." Boy, he got that right.