NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


October 25, 2004

Although current mercury levels today pose little or no threat to human health, the Bush administration's proposed "Cap and Trade" rule would be the most effective way to reduce mercury emissions, according to the Heartland Institute.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposes a Maximum Achievable Control Technology (MACT) that observers say would be more costly and is a "one-size-fits-all" approach. In comparing the two measures, the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) reported:

  • The Cap and Trade rule would reduce mercury deposition by an estimated 7 percent, compared to 5 percent under the MACT rule.
  • The Cap and Trade rule would cost about $2 billion, while the MACT rule would cost $10 billion.
  • However, both proposals would decrease mercury levels by only 0.5 percent in women of childbearing age.

Anti-mercury activists claim that the Ohio River Valley, where many power plants are located, is a "hot spot" for mercury pollution. But studies indicate that mercury levels in the area are at acceptable EPA levels.

The EPRI also reported that most of the mercury deposition in the United States comes not from electric power plants, but incinerators, which would be less effected under the MACT rule.

Source: James M. Taylor, "Fear of Mercury 'Hot Spots' Unfounded," Environment and Climate News, Heartland Institute, August 2004; and " 'Hot Spots?' Mercury Emissions and Deposition Patterns," Electric Power Research Institute, August 2, 2004.


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