State Sen. Scott Dibble, a Southwest lawmaker, plans to introduce a bill this legislative session calling for a dramatic drop in mercury emissions.
The measure calls for a 90 percent reduction in mercury emissions from coal-burning plants by 2009. Some facilities, however, would have until 2011 to meet the mandate.
Dibble, a DFLer who represents District 60, which encompasses portions of Downtown and Southwest, introduced a similar bill last session. The new version does not apply to taconite plants, however. State Rep. Ray Cox, a Republican from Northfield, has introduced a companion bill in the House.
“The reason that I'm doing this is that coal-burning electric plants are responsible for generating half of the mercury that is going into our environment these days,” Dibble said. “The other reason I'm pursuing it is because there is technology now available that is a lot cheaper than it has been in the past - so the cost arguments [against reducing emissions] are going away.”
The benefits of reducing mercury emissions would result in “tremendous savings” to the public health system and a boon to the state's tourism industry, he said.
Mercury is a potent toxin that can wreak havoc on the brain and nervous system. It accumulates in fish and can be especially problematic for fetuses and young children.
It's too early to say whether the bill will have any traction, but Dibble is optimistic. “I think the early signs are good. We have been building up on this momentum for quite a while. The immediacy of the need has never been more clear.”
The State Legislature convenes on March 1.