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Mercury Emissions Rule Will Go Into Effect

A state regulation proposed by the Natural Resources Board to reduce mercury emissions will go into effect after a key legislative committee failed to block the rule.

The Assembly Natural Resources Committee had opposed the regulation, but the Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules did not uphold that objection within a required 30-day period. The official end of that time is 5 p.m. Monday, but the committee chairman has not called a meeting, which requires a 24-hour advance notice.

The rule will require a reduction in the amount of mercury sent into the environment by coal-powered power plants by 90 percent by 2015. Coal plants are a major producer of the toxic substance.

Under the rule, those plants also have an option of moving the full mercury reduction target back to 2021 if sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide are reduced before then.

"DNR Secretary (Matt) Frank can sign the rule Tuesday morning, and it will be delivered immediately to the Legislative Reference Bureau for publication. It would likely be effective December 1, and January 1 at the latest, depending on when it is published," said Paul Heinen of the Department of Natural Resources. Mercury is released from smokestacks and falls into surface waters where it enters the food chain and becomes concentrated in fish and other wildlife. The substance can produce problems with memory, attention, language, vision and motor functions.

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