As polluters target the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and some in Congress try to limit it’s power, it’s important to remember just how much the agency does to safeguard our health. Yesterday we got another reminder as the EPA proposed a critical air quality standard to protect Americans against life-threatening air pollution such as mercury, arsenic and other air toxics from power plants, which are currently allowed to emit hazardous air pollution without national limits. The long-overdue and critically important mercury and air toxic standard updates Clean Air Act provisions and establishes emission limits for the nation’s fleet of power plants. According to EPA, each year the new protection will save as many as 17,000 lives and prevent 120,000 cases of childhood asthma.
“As a father of two young children, I am proud to see the EPA announcing such strong protections from toxic mercury,” said Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune. “These protections will benefit women, children and all Americans concerned about the dirty coal industry making them sick.”
Mercury pollution is a very real threat to the fishing industry in Minnesota, according to Rich Femling from Roseville. Rich is an avid angler and a manufacturer in the fishing tackling industry. He started fishing with a friend over 35 years ago and used to fish about 25 days each year — ice fishing, fly fishing, and conventional fishing — taking a trip out west each year and visiting different fishing spots around Minnesota. His experience led him to start his own business manufacturing ice fishing and fly fishing accessories.
“As a manufacturer in the fishing tackle industry, I am keenly aware of potential threats to our fisheries. Increasing or at least maintaining angler participation is vital to the survival of this industry. … .We can promote a particular product or target a certain class of customers to help sales in short term losses in participation. We can counter the lack of youth participation by applying electronic devices such as GPS, fish finders and underwater cameras to the sport. However, we will not counter the effects of a damaged resource because of our neglect.”
Since starting Rose-Creek Anglers in 1990, he still manages to get out at least ten times each year, making sure to visit his favorite area along the south shore of Lake Superior to fish for steelhead trout. He enjoys fishing with his grandsons, ages 7 and 8, and hopes that they continue the business when he retires.
As a manufacturer in the fishing industry, he is very concerned with anything that keeps people from fishing. Less people fishing means less people buying his fishing gear. Rich says that many anglers are not aware of the of the fish consumption advisories for the entire state of Minnesota and do not know that coal power plants are the greatest source of mercury pollution. Walleye is the biggest game fish in Minnesota, and fish advisories for walleye and other fish can discourage people, especially those with kids, to go fishing.
The latest EPA proposal will set new air toxics pollution limits based on the pollution reduction methods already in use at the cleanest and best-performing facilities in the nation. This approach will lead to safeguards that both reduce air pollution and protect public health.
Want to get involved? The Sierra Club is organizing free testing events around the country where concerned residents – especially women of childbearing age – can get their hair tested by a laboratory for mercury levels. The North Star Chapter will be holding an event locally, sign up online to be tested!