citizens of the Cedar Valley address the proposal for a coal burning power plant
City Council meeting
May 7, 2007
5. Carrie La Seur, environmental lawyer from Mt. Vernon.
Good evening. My name is Carrie La Seur. I’m an environmental lawyer from Mt. Vernon. I work for an Iowa nonprofit organization called Plains Justice. We provide legal services to communities facing threats to public health and the environment. Community Energy Solutions (the local grass roots group that is organized against this coal plant proposal) asked me to speak tonight about Clean Air Act regulation in Iowa and how protective it is. This is an issue I’ve researched a great deal in the last year. I’ve spent hours in the DNR Air Quality Bureau records department reviewing excess emission reports and violation notices. I looked at the permits that DNR issues and how they are enforced. I’ve come to the conclusion that our state regulatory regime is not consistently protective to meet even the minimum EPA standards for acceptable cancer risks and other threats to human health and the environment.
A prime example is Iowa’s reporting on mercury contamination.
Iowa is one of only 5 states that do NOT report on mercury contamination in their waters. This is not because we aren’t at risk for mercury. Nationally, 41% of mercury pollution emissions are derived from coal fired power plants. Iowa has 37 coal burning power plants. And the state ranks 16th nationally in the amount of mercury emissions from these power plants. Iowa DNR currently uses a 25 year old FDA safe consumption level of 1ppm (part per million) for mercury to issue fish consumption warnings in this state.
This FDA level does not adequately protect the public, especially pregnant women, small children, and individuals who consume large amounts of fish as part of their daily diet. According to the annual sampling performed by DNR of game fish from selected water bodies around the state, there are points along the Cedar River where the game fish are so contaminated by mercury, that it is only safe for an adult to eat 6 oz of fish 2 or 3 times per month.
In a permitting action currently open for comment at DNR, Mid America Energy Company (at this new Council Bluff’s boiler that has been touted as the state of the art for this state), Mid America is asking for numeric limits on mercury emissions to be removed from the air quality construction permit.
The new Clean Air mercury rule allows for a cap and trade system on mercury that may actually allow increased emissions from certain sites, including this one.
A review of DNR records also shows that many coal fired boilers report opacity levels in excess of state and federal limits on a regular basis without suffering any enforcement action.
I’ve printed out data tables( that I’ll leave for the city clerk, I hope for this council to review before the 2nd and 3rd reading of this project) that show emission from opacity from Mid-American’s, Council Bluff’s and Bettendorf’s power plants for the last 5 years. They show hundreds of days with violations without any enforcement action. When opacity increases, more particulate matter or soot is released into the air which causes asthma, higher emergency room visits, higher levels of respiratory mortality (that is death) in vulnerable populations, such as the elderly, within 30 miles of the source.