FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Bad Math of Mercury

by ALAN FARAGO

You have to wonder about the Bush White House and its poor handling of mercury-pollution rules that put the unborn at special risk.

The Environmental Protection Agency is reacting badly to data that its brand-spanking-new rule for reducing mercury pollution, calling for a 70 percent reduction in mercury pollution by power utilities, may not be achieved as promised in 2018, a date many experts say is already too far in the future, but only by 2025 or longer.

In a New York Times story, an EPA spokesperson defensively suggested cleaner skies would indeed be ahead, because, “the agency’s models did not build in the assumption that mercury controls will become cheaper, and so more appealing to the utilities, as time passes.”

Don’t worry, America; when technology is cheaper, sometime in the future, government and industry will protect you from being poisoned.

Curbing mercury pollution is a problem for an administration that never saw an environmental regulation it did not want to cut in half. That is why rules that smudge dates on compliance is the next best thing to outright gutting of the law.

For instance, in Florida last year Gov. Jeb Bush, the president’s brother, went along with the sugar industry by voiding a hard line of 2006 to stop its pollution of the Everglades — the foundation of the $8 billion Everglades restoration plan –fudging the specifics so thoroughly that environmentalists named Bush’s new law, “The Everglades Whenever Act.” Federal agencies, whose staff were predisposed to object, were meek as lambs.

Now, the Bush White House appears to be backtracking from the mercury-emission rule just released and written largely by the electric utility industry at the insistence of the White House, in what the EPA deftly mislabeled an “interagency process.”

Perhaps news finally filtered to the president’s desk that the EPA’s own scientists doubled the risk estimate of fetuses exposed to mercury. Mercury accumulates in fetuses in concentrations far higher than mother’s blood. The National Institutes of Health are investigating the possible role of mercury in sharp spikes in rates of autism and learning disabilities in children.

Today, one in six mothers and 600,000 children per year are at risk to be born with elevated mercury levels. So whether you are Christian, Jew, Buddhist or Muslim: the fetus of your child is likely to be ingesting nutrients and also mercury at twice the rate previously predicted.

Which leads to a question of President Bush’s staunch supporters: Why isn’t the religious right joining the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Sierra Club to sue the federal government for failing, in its new mercury rule, to account for “lost” mercury from chlorine plants, which spews more mercury into the atmosphere every year than the entire power plant industry?

And a few other questions: If the religious right is really concerned about the well-being of fetuses, why has it not focused on the manipulation of science to benefit polluters, why has it not rooted from the White House those ideologues putting the profits of industry ahead of the weakest, most vulnerable, the least able to defend themselves; fetuses, infants, and the young? Where are the protests and Sunday sermons?

The leaky reasoning in the Bush White House recalls the hypothesis of the Roman Empire’s undoing. It collapsed, not from the costs of supporting far-flung armies, but from lead poisoning. The story goes, Emperor Nero fiddled while Rome was burning because he and his imperial retinue were maddened by lead. Incidentally, the Roman god associated with lead was Saturn, who devoured his own children.

But who reads history in this White House? As for the religious right, it is easier to march to the drumbeat of morality down a one-way street. Heaven forbid there might be traffic coming the other way, in the form of soccer moms, NASCAR dads and environmentalists who treasure the sanctity of life above earthly pride and profit. For the Bush accountants, that math would be bad news indeed.

ALAN FARAGO writes frequently on the environment and politics. He lives in Coral Gables.

 

Alan Farago is president of Friends of the Everglades and can be reached at afarago@bellsouth.net

Weekend Edition
May 06, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Dave Wagner
When Liberals Run Out of Patience: the Impolite Exile of Seymour Hersh
John Stauber
Strange Bedfellows: the Bizarre Coalition of Kochs, Neocons and Democrats Allied Against Trump and His #FUvoters
Rob Urie
Hillary Clinton and the End of the Democratic Party
Joshua Frank
Afghanistan: Bombing the Land of the Snow Leopard
Bill Martin
Fear of Trump: Annals of Parliamentary Cretinism
Doug Johnson Hatlem
NYC Board of Elections Suspends 2nd Official, Delays Hillary Clinton v. Bernie Sanders Results Certification
Carol Miller
Pretending the Democratic Party Platform Matters
Paul Street
Hey, Bernie, Leave Them Kids Alone
Tamara Pearson
Mexico Already Has a Giant Wall, and a Mining Company Helped to Build It
Dave Lindorff
Bringing the Sanders ‘Revolution’ to Philly’s Streets
Margaret Kimberley
Obama’s Last Gasp Imperialism
Carmelo Ruiz
The New Wave of Repression in Puerto Rico
Jack Denton
Prison Labor Strike in Alabama: “We Will No Longer Contribute to Our Own Oppression”
Jeffrey St. Clair
David Bowie’s 100 Favorite Books, the CounterPunch Connection
David Rosen
Poverty in America: the Deepening Crisis
Pepe Escobar
NATO on Trade, in Europe and Asia, is Doomed
Pete Dolack
Another Goodbye to Democracy if Transatlantic Partnership is Passed
Carla Blank
Prince: Pain and Dance
Josh Hoxie
American Tax Havens: Elites Don’t Have to go to Panama to Hide Their Money–They’ve Got Delaware
Gabriel Rockhill
Media Blackout on Nuit Debout
Barry Lando
Welcome to the Machine World: the Perfect Technological Storm
Hilary Goodfriend
The Wall Street Journal is Playing Dirty in El Salvador, Again
Frank Stricker
Ready for the Coming Assault on Social Security? Five Things Paul Ryan and Friends Don’t Want You to Think About
Robert Gordon
Beyond the Wall: an In-Depth Look at U.S. Immigration Policy
Roger Annis
City at the Heart of the Alberta Tar Sands Burning to the Ground
Simon Jones
RISE: New Politics for a Tired Scotland
Rob Hager
After Indiana: Sanders Wins another Purple State, But Remains Lost in a Haze of Bad Strategy and Rigged Delegate Math
Howard Lisnoff
Father Daniel Berrigan, Anti-war Hero With a Huge Blindspot
Adam Bartley
Australia-China Relations and the Politics of Canberra’s Submarine Deal
Nyla Ali Khan
The Complexity of the Kashmir Issue: “Conflict Can and Should be Handled Constructively
Ramzy Baroud
The Spirit of Nelson Mandela in Palestine: Is His Real Legacy Being Upheld?
Mel Gurtov
North Korea’s New Weapons: Full Speed Ahead?
Alli McCracken - Raed Jarrar
#IsraelSaudi: A Match Made in Hell
George Wuerthner
Working Wilderness and Other Code Words
Robert Koehler
Cowardice and Exoneration in Kunduz
Ron Jacobs
Psychedelic Rangers Extraordinaire
Missy Comley Beattie
It’s a Shit Show!
Kevin Martin
President Obama Should Meet A-Bomb Survivors
David Macaray
Our Best Weapon Is Being Systematically Eliminated
Colin Todhunter
Future Options: From Militarism and Monsanto to Gandhi and Bhaskar Save
Binoy Kampmark
The Trump Train Chugs Along
Thomas Knapp
The End of the Bill of Rights is at Our Fingertips
Cesar Chelala
A Lesson of Auschwitz
John Laforge
Dan Berrigan, 1921 – 2016: “We Haven’t Lost, Because We Haven’t Given Up.”
Norman Trabulsy Jr
John Denver and My 40th High School Reunion
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail