Ohio River

PRESS RELEASE: Environmental Groups Urge Ohio River Commission to Resist Weakening Clean Water Protections, Maintain Pollution Control Standards

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Environmental Groups Urge Ohio River Commission to Resist Weakening Clean Water Protections, Maintain Pollution Control Standards

Safe clean drinking water could be threatened for millions

Columbus, OHIO — A coalition of environmental groups from states along the Ohio River is calling for a multi-state commission to resist weakening clean water protections along the 900-mile long river. The decision to scuttle 60-year-old protections would impact millions of people in the states of Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia.

A majority of commissioners appointed to the Ohio River Valley Sanitation Commission, known as ORSANCO, is proposing revisions to its core mission that would eliminate key Pollution Control Standards and withdraw ORSANCO from the responsibility of ensuring consistent water quality throughout the Ohio River. ORSANCO was created as an interstate water pollution control agency in part to ensure pollution dumped into the Ohio River in one state doesn’t have a negative effect on the waters of another state.

Environmental groups submitted comments to ORSANCO opposing the proposal to eliminate ORSANCO’s water quality standards during a public comment period that ended February 24.

“ORSANCO commissioners walking away from their crucial oversight role will set the stage for a ‘race to the bottom’ in controlling pollution in the Ohio River,” said Madeline Fleisher, Senior Attorney at the Environmental Law & Policy Center, one of the groups that submitted comments. “We can’t afford to lose the one watchdog in charge of making sure the entire Ohio River is safe and clean for more than four million people who rely on it for their drinking water.”

“The proposed action by ORSANCO jeopardizes water quality achievements and threatens interstate cooperation to control and continue to reduce Ohio River pollution,” said Rich Cogen, Executive Director at Ohio River Foundation and Chair of the Watershed Organizations Advisory Committee for ORSANCO.

“Every person deserves to turn on their tap and know their drinking water is safe,” said Kristy Meyer, Vice President of Policy at the Ohio Environmental Council. “The Ohio River is critical to the local economy and the quality of life in the region which is why ORSANCO should be strengthening its water quality standards, rather than rolling back protections.”

“Sixty years ago, states bordering the Ohio River had the vision to work together to put in place clean water protections that allowed the Ohio River to successfully support industry and commerce, as well as provide clean drinking water for people and a home for fish and wildlife,” said Gail Hesse, Great Lakes Water Director for the National Wildlife Federation. “This foundation of cooperation for a sustainable river has served the region well, and to scuttle it now would be irresponsible.”

“The idea of ORSANCO abandoning their oversight of uniform pollution control standards flies in the face of why the Commission was established in the first place,” said Angie Rosser, Executive Director of the West Virginia Rivers Coalition. “This move would undermine the ability of the Ohio to recover as a healthy river system.”

“The Ohio River is a critical natural resource with communities investing and generating millions of dollars in riverfront development and recreation,” said Jason Flickner, the Lower Ohio River Waterkeeper Director and Hoosier Chapter Sierra Club board member. “Now is not the time for ORSANCO to relinquish its important work setting pollution limits.”

“We still believe it is a very good idea for ORSANCO to ensure pollution dumped into the Ohio River doesn’t have a negative impact on waters of other states – especially in light of spills from recent times – like the MCHM spill in 2014,” said Robin Blakeman, Project Coordinator of the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition. “Such petrochemical product spills are likely to be more, not less common in the future, especially if the massive Appalachian Petrochemical Storage Hub project becomes reality very close to the Ohio River.”

Environmental groups that submitted comments to ORSANCO include: Environmental Law & Policy Center, Ohio Environmental Council, National Wildlife Federation, Kentucky Waterways Alliance, Ohio River Foundation, West Virginia Rivers Coalition, Three Rivers Waterkeeper, Sierra Club, Hoosier Environmental Council and Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition.

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GreenBiz: ELPC’s KIein Says Water Quality Trading One Option to Reduce Water Pollution

GreenBizQuantifying Water as a Liquid Asset
January 7, 2017
By Kelli Barrett

The World Economic Forum ranked the water crisis as one of the top threats facing society after listing it as the No. 1 threat in 2015. Water was also central to the Paris climate talks, while the United Nations dedicated Sustainable Development Goal No. 6 to water and sanitation and the Sioux people of North America put the previously unknown town of Standing Rock on the global map by standing up to protect their water rights.

Fortunately, scores of efforts are underway to meet the challenge and the Electric Power Research Institute started off the year with a review of its Water Prize-winning Ohio River Basin Trading project. A January webinar outlined a multi-pronged strategy that includes promotional videos and impact investors rather than donor-based finance.

Using the project’s funding, Midwest farmers such as Ken Merrick have been able to implement conservation activities to reduce fertilizer and animal waste from running into nearby waterways that flow to the Gulf of Mexico. Merrick, who operates Conser Run farm in Ohio, added a storage area for manure and a buffer strip where his cows only occasionally are allowed to graze.

He also lets trees and grasses grow along the creek running through his farm, which mops up excess pollution before it reaches the water.

The program is still in a pilot phase but, if it evolves as planned, Ohio River farmers can quantify their pollution reductions and generate stewardship credits using a market-based approach called water quality trading. They then can sell these credits to power plants and wastewater treatment facilities interested in meeting sustainability goals or to comply with regulatory requirements.

The Trading Debate

Water quality trading made headlines in 2016 after an organization called Food and Water Watch penned a paper in late 2015 condemning the entire practice and re-labeling it “pollution trading.” The group charged that it undermines the Clean Water Act (CWA) and puts U.S. waterways at great risk. Advocates of the practice dismissed the paper in August, arguing trading is one of several tools states and utilities can use to improve water quality.

“Trading isn’t a silver bullet. It’s not a panacea,” Brad Klein, a senior attorney at the Environmental Law and Policy Center, said. “But we need to get on top of this issue of water pollution, and water quality trading may be another arrow in the quiver.”

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Midwest Energy News: ELPC to Focus on Issues Such as Mercury Pollution on ORSANCO Advisory Committee

Conservation and environmental groups will now have a formal seat at the table when regulators meet to review water quality issues and standards for the Ohio River – a status enjoyed by the power industry and other groups for years.

Last month the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission (ORSANCO) agreed to formation of the new Watershed Organizations Advisory Committee. The move was a response to a June 2015 petition from 17 groups.

Although the groups had been submitting comments and participating informally, formal status comes with a nonvoting seat at technical committee meetings, a closer opportunity to participate with various working committees, and an opportunity to report at ORSANCO’s board meetings.

“In the entire 68-year history of ORSANCO, there has never before been an official seat at the table for watershed and wildlife advocacy organizations,” noted Judy Petersen of the Kentucky Waterways Alliance, who chairs the new committee.

“We’re pleased to have the Watershed Organizations Advisory Committee established to help us in our development of Ohio River studies and policy,” said ORSANCO’s executive director, Richard Harrison. “We’re looking forward to working with them collaboratively to improve Ohio River water and quality.”

Mercury issues continue

The power industry’s advisory committee hasn’t focused on any single issue, Harrison noted, but has rather been involved with the wide range of issues that affect the river and its tributaries.

Nonetheless, various issues are particularly relevant to the energy industry, said Madeline Fleisher of the Environmental Law & Policy Center in Columbus, Ohio. That includes mercury pollution, which can originate from coal-burning power plants, as well as other sources.

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Press Release: ELPC Named to New Ohio River Advisory Committee of Watershed Non-Profits

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                                                                              

 ELPC Named to New Ohio River Advisory Committee of Watershed Non-Profits   

Committee gets seat at table with ORSANCO commissioners

 Columbus, Ohio – The Environmental Law & Policy Center and more than a dozen other environmentally-focused non-profit organizations within the Ohio River Basin were named to a newly-formed Advisory Committee to the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission (ORSANCO), a multi-state group charged with setting pollution and abatement standards for the waterway.

The new Watershed Organizations Advisory Committee includes representatives from water-focused environmental non-profits throughout the Ohio River Basin that will be interact with other stakeholder advisory committees and ORSANCO members during scheduled meetings. ELPC already has been an active participant in ORSANCO deliberations over mercury “mixing zones” and other issues during public comment periods and in other ways. The new committee will enable ELPC and its partners to play a more participatory role early on in ORSANCO’s decision-making process.

“The Environmental Law & Policy Center and our fellow advocacy organizations have been working hard over the past year to make sure that ORSANCO understands the environmental and public health ramifications of its decisions,” said Madeline Fleisher, staff attorney at ELPC. “We look forward to participating on this committee as a new avenue to address the serious problems confronting the Ohio River, such as mercury contamination and toxic algae outbreaks.”

Judy Peterson, Executive Director of Kentucky Waterways Alliance, was voted chairman of the committee. “On behalf of the Watershed Organizations Advisory Committee members, I thank the Commissioners for their cordial welcome,” said Peterson. “In the entire 68-year history of ORSANCO, there has never before been an official seat at the table for watershed and wildlife advocacy organizations.”

ORSANCO Chairman Douglas Conroe added, “I am delighted to see the interest that the 17 watershed organizations have offered in helping ORSANCO in its development of Ohio River studies and policies and welcome working with them at the table.”

The new committee will serve its first ex officio role at ORSANCO’s Technical Committee meeting in June 2016.

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Porstmouth Daily Times: ELPC Named to ORSANCO Advisory Committee

The Environmental Law & Policy Center and more than a dozen other environmentally-focused non-profit organizations within the Ohio River Basin were named to a newly-formed Advisory Committee to the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission (ORSANCO), a multi-state group charged with setting pollution and abatement standards for the waterway.

The new Watershed Organizations Advisory Committee includes representatives from water-focused environmental non-profits throughout the Ohio River Basin that will be interact with other stakeholder advisory committees and ORSANCO members during scheduled meetings. ELPC already has been an active participant in ORSANCO deliberations over mercury “mixing zones” and other issues during public comment periods and in other ways. The new committee will enable ELPC and its partners to play a more participatory role early on in ORSANCO’s decision-making process.

“The Environmental Law & Policy Center and our fellow advocacy organizations have been working hard over the past year to make sure that ORSANCO understands the environmental and public health ramifications of its decisions,” said Madeline Fleisher, staff attorney at ELPC. “We look forward to participating on this committee as a new avenue to address the serious problems confronting the Ohio River, such as mercury contamination and toxic algae outbreaks.”

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ELPC 2015: What We’ve Achieved, and What’s Next

This is a transformational year for the environment. ELPC is seizing strategic opportunities for progress on the big issues. We’re achieving strong results in these politically gridlocked times.

First, the EPA’s Clean Power Plan caps two decades of sustained advocacy by ELPC and many environmental and public health colleagues backed by sound scientific findings. The U.S. is now stepping up as a global leader advancing clean energy solutions to reduce carbon pollution.

Second, solar energy, wind power and innovative energy efficiency technologies are poised to transform the electricity market just as wireless transformed telecommunications, changing the ways that we live and work. ELPC is driving new policies to accelerate distributed Midwest solar energy installations and install one million new smart thermostats in Illinois.

Third, ELPC’s successful litigation to stop the fiscal folly Illiana Tollway, protect the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie and promote sound regional planning is transforming transportation policy to prioritize public transit and modern regional rail instead of politically clouted boondoggles. ELPC attorneys are winning in both the court of law and the court of public opinion.

ELPC is effective. Our teams of expert public interest attorneys, M.B.A.s, policy advocates and communications specialists, combined with the ELPC Science Advisory Council, play to win and know how to get things done.  ELPC is truly making a difference for a better world.

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Your support has helped ELPC advance a cleaner renewable energy mix for the Midwest, accelerate cleaner transportation, and clean up the rivers and great lakes that we all care about. Please consider ELPC’s results and make a financial contribution to support our successful program work in 2016:

 

Ditching the Illiana Tollway Boondoggle and Protecting the Remarkable Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie

Midewin_Illiana_250x330The proposed new Illiana Tollway is a fiscal folly, undermines sound regional planning and would harm wildlife and ecological values in the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie. On June 16th, Federal District Court Judge Jorge Alonso granted Plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment and declared that the federal and state transportation agencies’ approval of the Tier 1 final Environmental Impact Statement and Record of Decision “for the proposed new Illiana Expressway was arbitrary and capricious and in violation of NEPA.” This is a tremendous litigation victory for ELPC’s public interest attorneys on behalf of our clients Midewin Heritage Association, Openlands and Sierra Club.

More than a dozen newspapers across Illinois have editorialized against the Illiana “road to nowhere” during the state’s fiscal crisis and when there are much higher priorities for limited transportation infrastructure funds to enable badly-needed fixes for transit and commuter rail, intercity higher-speed rail, and highway and bridge repairs.

ELPC’s legal, economic and media advocacy and our clients’ public engagement have changed the proposed new boondoggle Illiana Tollway from a “done deal” to “terminal life support.” It’s time for Governor Rauner and Illinois’ political leadership to finally ditch the Illiana once and for all. ELPC is working hard in the federal and state courts, and in the courts of public opinion, to bring the proposed Illiana Tollway to its well-deserved end.

 

Installing One Million Smart Thermostats in Illinois – A National Model

NestThermostat_250x330ELPC and Commonwealth Edison worked together creating an ambitious new program to install one million new smart thermostats in Illinois homes and small businesses over the next five years. U.S. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy joined us for the October 8th public announcement. This leading-edge initiative provides rebates up to $120, using the consumer-funded Energy Efficiency Performance Standards program resources, for the new generation of Ecobee, Nest and Honeywell thermostats that learn customer behavior and adjust cooling and heating without complicated programming. These “smart thermostats” can save consumers 15%-25% from their heating and cooling costs and reduce pollution. Once the Illinois program is off the ground, ELPC plans to replicate it in more Midwestern states. This innovative technology is a winner.

 

Accelerating Solar Energy in Illinois, Iowa, Michigan and Minnesota

SolarShedd_250x330Solar energy installations in the Midwest grew by 70% last year, creating jobs, new businesses and economic growth. However, the coal industry and some electric utilities are seeking to impose regulatory barriers to protect their polluting power plants and their electricity monopolies. ELPC is working to advance sound policies that drive clean solar energy forward and remove regulatory barriers to development.

In Illinois, ELPC was instrumental in helping enact and then design the state’s first $30 million distributed solar generation procurement.

In Iowa, ELPC successfully repelled Interstate Power & Light’s attempt to impose new barriers to solar development after we won a major case before the Iowa Supreme Court to remove utility-imposed barriers to conventional third-party financing arrangements for solar energy development projects.

In Minnesota and Michigan, ELPC is making steady progress with our state-based partners to design new distributed solar programs and strategies. We’re moving forward at this transformational time to accelerate solar energy development for a cleaner energy future. ELPC is pro-technological innovation, pro-competition and pro-removing regulatory barriers to solar.

 

Keeping the Great Lakes and Midwest Rivers Clean

LakeMichiganMichigan-sidebarThere are two main types of water pollution – from a single, identifiable “point” source and the “non-point” flows from farms, ranches and streets. ELPC is working on both.

This is the first year that the SS Badger car ferry did not dump about 1,000,000 pounds of toxic coal ash into Lake Michigan. The ship now has a new coal ash containment system thanks to an effective advocacy campaign led by ELPC with U.S. Senator Dick Durbin and our good colleagues. ELPC’s work to stop the SS Badger from polluting the drinking water supplies for 42 million people is a strong precedent that reinforces that it’s no longer acceptable to dump toxic pollution in our Great Lakes.

ELPC also brought together more than 60 scientists and policymakers for our second annual Great Lakes Science-Policy Confluence Conference to discuss solutions to mitigate “nutrient pollution” – agricultural runoff that helped cause toxic blue-green algae blooms in Western Lake Erie. In summer 2014, 500,000 people in the Toledo area were without safe drinking water supplies for 72 hours. That’s not acceptable. ELPC is stepping up our advocacy for the necessary actions to reduce nitrogen and phosphorus runoff from agricultural operations that caused the toxic algae and contaminated water supplies.

ELPC continues our Mississippi River protection legal leadership, and we convened a new collaboration of Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia groups for coordinated multi-state action to help clean up the Ohio River, considered by some to be America’s most polluted waterway.

 

ELPC Is Accelerating the Next Generation of Sustainable Transportation

AmtrakELPC is a recognized leader in advancing the Midwest high-speed rail network, which will improve mobility, reduce pollution, create jobs and pull together the regional economy. We are working to accelerate new clean cars and trucks, which use modern technologies to increase fuel efficiency and reduce pollution.

This year, I was honored to be asked by Amtrak’s CEO to serve on a four-member Blue Ribbon Panel analyzing and recommending strategies and better practices to increase fluidity and reduce congestion for higher-speed passenger rail and freight rail in the “Chicago Gateway” leading to St. Louis, Detroit and the East Coast.

 

 

Making the Clean Power Plan Standards Work Well

coal_250x330This is the federal cornerstone for America’s commitment to climate change solutions. ELPC is working with many business, environmental, health and faith-based allies to overcome the coal industry’s and certain politicians’ litigation efforts to stall progress, and to effectively implement state climate solution action plans in the Midwest states. Overall, ELPC is advancing new policies to drive energy markets with technological innovations that can change the world.

 

 

 

 

ELPC believes in the core principle that environmental progress and economic growth can be achieved together, and we put that sustainability principle into practice every day. ELPC’s solutions-focused strategies engage diverse partners and seize opportunities to accelerate clean energy development and clean transportation technologies, protect clean air and clean water, and preserve the Midwest’s wild and natural places.

ELPC’s multidisciplinary staff teams of public interest attorneys, M.B.A.s, policy experts and communications specialists are fully engaged across the Midwest, and we’re making progress. It isn’t easy; real change never is. We don’t give up. Let’s keep working together to win.

Thank you for engaging and making a contribution to support ELPC’s work to harness this change and achieve a brighter future.

 

The Columbus Dispatch: Commission Lets States Decide Ohio River Mercury Tests

States along the Ohio River will decide how and where companies test to determine how much mercury they release into the waterway, according to a decision by the multistate commission overseeing the river’s health.

Thursday’s decision means there will be no single, comprehensive plan for testing how much mercury polluters release into the river.

The Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission, whose members represent eight states and set pollution standards for the river, said in a statement that the decision would not increase the amount of mercury in the river.

Environmental-advocacy groups disagree.

“I think it leaves the door open for there to be more mercury going in,” said Madeline Fleisher, an Ohio-based lawyer with the Environmental Law and Policy Center, who attended the commission’s hearing in Buffalo on Thursday.

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WDRB: Ohio River water quality commission punts on tougher mercury rule

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – An agency overseeing the Ohio River’s water quality won’t enforce new mercury rules set to start this month, despite the objections of clean water advocates.

At issue are so-called “mixing zones” that allow older industries to take mercury readings farther away from the point of release — thereby exceeding current pollution standards.

At a meeting in Buffalo, N.Y., the eight-state Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission voted to scrap a ban on so-called “mixing zones” that was to take effect Oct. 16, according to a news release. Companies had been given a decade to prepare for the ban, which would have required them to measure mercury discharges at the “end of pipe.”

The commission – known as ORSANCO – said it still wants to eliminate the mixing zones. But it said decisions allowing companies to use the zones now will be made by state officials and be “subject to more formal opportunities for public comment and judicial review of the permitting decision.”

ORSANCO noted in its release that companies that began discharging mercury and 21 other “chemicals of concern” since 2003 still can’t use the mixing zones.

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Press Release: Multi-state commission kicks mercury ban deadline for Ohio River back to state agencies

Multi-state Commission Kicks Mercury Ban Deadline for Ohio River Back to State Agencies

 Environmental groups disappointed commission not setting consistent standard 

 BUFFALO, N.Y. – Today, an 8-state commission that oversees pollution standards for the Ohio River announced a disappointing decision to remove the October 16 effective date for a ban that would forbid companies in all states along the river from dumping high levels of toxic mercury into the waterway. Instead, the commission changed the rule to shift the responsibility to state agencies for deciding whether to allow companies to discharge larger amounts of mercury into the river, which means there will likely be no unified standard.

Mercury is a known neurotoxin that causes brain and nerve damage to children and developing fetuses when they are exposed through consumption of contaminated fish.

In 2003, the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission, known as ORSANCO, authorized a ban to take effect in 10 years that would prevent polluters located in all states along the Ohio River from releasing high levels of mercury directly into the water through the use of mercury dilution zones. The ban on these “mixing zones” would improve the safety of consumption of fish from the river and protect public health. After delaying the ban by two years, ORSANCO set a new effective date for October 16, 2015.

Instead of enforcing a specific implementation date, ORSANCO at its public meeting today in Buffalo, N.Y. announced it changed the mixing zone prohibition to “As soon as practicable,” and left final decision-making to state permitting authorities. States will now have more leeway to decide whether to grant variances to individual coal plants, factories and other industries along the Ohio River that seek exceptions to comply with the ban.

Representatives from a coalition of 20 environmental groups working toward a cleaner and healthier Ohio River are concerned that states along the Ohio River will not be tough enforcers of the ban.

“The Environmental Law & Policy Center and our partners are disappointed about this decision because it fails to recognize that polluters have already had 12 years to reduce their mercury discharges,” said Madeline Fleisher, ELPC’s Staff Attorney in Columbus, Ohio. “ORSANCO hasn’t done its job well on mercury pollution so Ohio, Illinois, Indiana and Pennsylvania need to step up and do it better. The Commission missed a crucial opportunity here to set a firm deadline for achieving safe levels of mercury in the Ohio River.”

Environmental groups worry about continued health risks for residents who benefit from the fish supply in the Ohio River and those who recreate there as well.

“ORSANCO’s decision flies in the face of Kentuckians who support the ban on toxic mercury discharges and the enforcement of water quality protections, and it flies in the face of science,” said Tim Joice, Water Policy Director at the Kentucky Waterways Alliance. “We are extremely disappointed for all the fishermen and families that eat fish from the river daily, and disappointed for the public at large. KWA will continue to fight for clean water for the health of our communities and citizens.”

The coalition also charges that  ORSANCO is abandoning its own mission to set one standard for the entire river, which is intended to reduce overall pollution and create a level playing field for industries along the length of the river.

“This decision to eliminate the ban deadline provides no end in sight to the increasing mercury pollution in the Ohio River,” said Angie Rosser, Executive Director of the West Virginia Rivers Coalition. “Cleaner water for our residents simply can’t wait.”

Several companies along the Ohio River were in the process of requesting variances to the mixing zone ban from ORSANCO and they will instead have to seek exceptions directly from states agencies.

ORSANCO, which is composed of governor-appointed individuals from eight states and three federal government representatives, is charged to conduct a review of its pollution abatement and control standards every three years. More than 16,000 public comments were submitted opposing the lifting of the mercury mixing zone ban deadline.

 

 

Cincinnati Enquirer: Ohio River mercury decision passes authority to states

State officials along the Ohio River will now be left to decide whether companies can discharge mercury and other potentially harmful chemicals into the Ohio River in areas known as mixing zones.

Members of the board of the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission (ORSANCO) made the decision Thursday morning at a board meeting in Buffalo, New York, to the dismay of many environmental groups.

“This decision is disappointing and fails to recognize that polluters have already had 12 years to reduce their mercury discharges,” a statement from the Environmental Law & Policy Center reads. “ORSANCO hasn’t done its job well on mercury pollution so Ohio, Illinois, Indiana and Pennsylvania need to step up and do it better. The commission missed a crucial opportunity here to set a firm deadline for achieving safe levels of mercury in the Ohio River. Without such a deadline, it’s likely that polluters will just spend another 12 years twiddling their thumbs rather than taking concrete steps toward reducing mercury discharges.”

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