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After many years of hoping and waiting for this day, the Michigan government has finally finalized regulations effectively reducing mercury emissions from power plants to 90% below 1999 by 2015, reports the Associated Press. The Great Lakes (and all of their inhabitants) can now take a huge sigh of relief, as can area Michigan children.In total, this means a reduction of 3,600 pounds of mercury emissions each year. For a state that has mercury consumption warnings on all 11,000 inland lakes, mercury is not just a "small frye" problem and fishing in Michigan contributes to over $2 billion USD to the state's economy. But, as the mercury turns into methylmercury in water and moves up the food chain to accumulate in fish, the fish are then a threat to all who consume them. Mercury is responsible for lower IQs, as well as problems with vision, memory and motor skills. Children and infants are particularly susceptible to mercury poisoning.
Power plants are among the largest sources of mercury emissions, thanks to the coal that is burned at the plant. Environmental groups estimate that the reductions will be closer to 77% when all is said and done, but that even that is something to cheer about. Existing power plants can either install a system which instantly drops emissions 90% by injecting carbon into gases emitted, which isolates the mercury ash which can then be landfilled. Or they can install scrubbers to clean up the mercury. Smaller plants can be a little more creative with their solution, but it will be approved on a case-by-case basis. New plants are required to use best available technology and cannot choose from among these options.
Michigan is the 19th state to regulate power plants in this manner. Many of the plants in the area wish that there was a federal rule requiring everyone to pay to clean up their emissions, thus leveling the energy playing field.