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Thursday, September 18, 2014
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Published: Monday, 1/14/2013

EDITORIAL

Keep reducing mercury

DTE Energy’s coal-fired power plant in Monroe releases far less air pollution now while generating more electricity. Yet the latest federal records show it is still high for mercury emissions, ranking ninth among the nation’s power plants.

DTE is, at least, on the right path. It realized years ago it needed to make an investment to keep the plant viable. By doing so, it put itself into better position for complying with the Obama Administration’s tighter mercury rule that is to take effect in 2015. The Environmental Protection Agency said the rule will prevent 11,000 premature deaths, 4,700 heart attacks, and 130,000 cases of childhood asthma a year.

The Great Lakes congressional delegation should work with the administration to fend off any rollbacks. America in general, but especially the Great Lakes region, needs to control mercury. Ohio, one of the nation’s largest users of coal-fired power, needs to keep reducing mercury.

Mercury, one of the most potent neurotoxins, can impair child development and damage the brain, heart, kidneys, lungs, and immune system of people of all ages. It converts to its worst form in fresh water, when it gets into fish people eat. Lake Erie produces more fish than the other Great Lakes combined.

The Monroe facility is the nation’s fourth largest coal-fired power plant. Its ranking in a report by the Washington-based Environmental Integrity Project is not a surprise. But the group, founded in 2002 by former U.S. EPA enforcement attorneys, notes that progress has been uneven among the nation’s largest emitters.

Coal-fired power is the largest source of airborne mercury. The group found that the top 10 plants for mercury releases discharge 18 percent of the mercury from the power-plant sector.

DTE began a $1.7 billion modernization of its Monroe facility in 1999. That has achieved at least a 13 percent reduction in mercury emissions since 2001. More mercury emissions will come down there in 2014, when the final two scrubbers are installed on stacks to reduce sulfur dioxide. Those will be in addition to two installed in 2009. The devices will work in tandem with the plant’s three selective catalytic reduction systems — state-of-the-art air pollution controls to further bring down mercury emissions.

Ideally, DTE’s work would have been done long ago. But it’s hard to achieve quick results with some of the nation’s largest facilities.



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