With today’s approval by the Illinois General Assembly’s Joint Committee on Administrative Rules, Governor Blagojevich’s proposal to cut 90% of the mercury pollution coming out of Illinois coal plants by 2009 will go into effect. This is a historic victory to dramatically reduce a dangerous neurotoxin that threatens the brains and nervous systems of Illinois children.
Illinois women should not have to worry that the tuna fish sandwich they have for lunch, or the fish they put on the family dinner table may cause permanent harm to their children. Most of this mercury pollution comes from coal-burning power plants that have not installed the pollution controls that can eliminate most of the threat to our children. Now they will finally clean up their act to protect our kids.
This cleanup plan will not only protect Illinois children, it also sets an example for America to follow. States can and must do better than the Bush Administration’s proposal to go slow and easy in requiring mercury pollution controls, and Illinoisans can be proud that this proposal is the strongest of any state’s response.
This ruling is a major public health victory. This mercury cleanup plan will protect future generations of Illinois children from the very serious dangers posed by mercury contamination. It is a major step forward towards the day when Illinois can hopefully lift the health warnings currently posted about the dangers of eating certain fish from every lake and river in our state.
We applaud the leadership of Governor Blagojevich, Director of Policy Development Steven Frenkel, Illinois Environmental Protection Agency Director Doug Scott, and all of the IEPA staff, including Laurel Kroack, Jim Ross, Chris Romaine, and many others, for their hard work over the past year in enacting this historic pollution cleanup plan.
The Sierra Club’s Illinois Clean Air Campaign, led by Verena Owen, has been working in Illinois to create awareness about the threats posed by mercury contamination, and to promote solutions such as this proposal for many years. Our volunteers and staff offered free hair testing events across Illinois, where concerned people could their own mercury exposure could check their own levels and get involved in the cleanup campaign. We reached out to Illinoisans at fishing and hunting shows, health and environmental fairs, and concerts to engage people across the state in promoting this solution. We held town hall meetings with community partners and went door to door in communities uniquely impacted by mercury pollution. We worked with the Blagojevich Administration at key points along the way to develop and support the proposal.
We are proud of our work, but the real winners today are the children of tomorrow. We look forward to the day when Illinois women don’t have to worry that the food they eat or put on the dinner table may be putting their children at risk. Today’s action means those days may be numbered.