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

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

May 22, 2017
Diana Johnstone
All Power to the Banks! The Winners-Take-All Regime of Emmanuel Macron
Robert Fisk
Hypocrisy and Condescension: Trump’s Speech to the Middle East
John Grant
Jeff Sessions, Jesus Christ and the Return of Reefer Madness
Nozomi Hayase
Trump and the Resurgence of Colonial Racism
Rev. William Alberts
The Normalizing of Authoritarianism in America
Frank Stricker
Getting Full Employment: the Fake Way and the Right Way 
Jamie Davidson
Red Terror: Anti-Corbynism and Double Standards
Binoy Kampmark
Julian Assange, Sweden, and Continuing Battles
Robert Jensen
Beyond Liberal Pieties: the Radical Challenge for Journalism
Patrick Cockburn
Trump’s Extravagant Saudi Trip Distracts from His Crisis at Home
Angie Beeman
Gig Economy or Odd Jobs: What May Seem Trendy to Privileged City Dwellers and Suburbanites is as Old as Poverty
Colin Todhunter
The Public Or The Agrochemical Industry: Who Does The European Chemicals Agency Serve?
Jerrod A. Laber
Somalia’s Worsening Drought: Blowback From US Policy
Michael J. Sainato
Police Claimed Black Man Who Died in Custody Was Faking It
Clancy Sigal
I’m a Trump Guy, So What?
Gerry Condon
In Defense of Tulsi Gabbard
Weekend Edition
May 19, 2017
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
Getting Assange: the Untold Story
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Secret Sharer
Charles Pierson
Trump’s First Hundred Days of War Crimes
Paul Street
How Russia Became “Our Adversary” Again
Andrew Levine
Legitimation Crises
Mike Whitney
Seth Rich, Craig Murray and the Sinister Stewards of the National Security State 
Robert Hunziker
Early-Stage Antarctica Death Rattle Sparks NY Times Journalists Trip
Ken Levy
Why – How – Do They Still Love Trump?
Bruce E. Levine
“Hegemony How-To”: Rethinking Activism and Embracing Power
Robert Fisk
The Real Aim of Trump’s Trip to Saudi Arabia
Christiane Saliba
Slavery Now: Migrant Labor in the Persian Gulf and Saudi Arabia
Chris Gilbert
The Chávez Hypothesis: Vicissitudes of a Strategic Project
Howard Lisnoff
Pay No Attention to That Man Behind the Curtain
Brian Cloughley
Propaganda Feeds Fear and Loathing
Stephen Cooper
Is Alabama Hiding Evidence It Tortured Two of Its Citizens?
Sheldon Richman
The Real Danger From Trump is Ignored
Jay Moore
Learning from History: Resistance in the 1850s and Today
Matthew Stevenson
Down and Out in London and Paris With Macron, May, Trump and Gatsby
David Jaffee
Rolling Back Democracy
Fred Gardner
Irrefutable Proof: Russian Election Meddling Documented!
Jess Guh
Neurology Study Reveals What We Already Know: People of Color Get Worse Healthcare
Joseph Natoli
A Culture of Narcissism, a Politics of Personality
David Rosen
Politics and the Agent of Social Change
Ian Almond
The Secret Joke of Our Democracy: Britain’s Elephant in the Boardroom
Andre Vltchek
Revolution Vs Passivity
Erik Rydberg
Stop the Jordan Cove LNG Project #NoLNG
Vijay Prashad
When Israeli Fighter Jets Almost Killed Nehru
Christopher Brauchli
The Certified Trump
Chuck Collins
Congress Wants to Cut Your Health Care — And Billionaires’ Taxes
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail