Press Release

Press Release: Michigan Scientists Call on AG Schuette to Drop Opposition to Federal Mercury Standards 

State readies for free fishing weekend, mercury can contaminate some local sportsfish

Contact: Judith Nemes, (312) 795-3706, [email protected]

Grand Rapids, Mich. – As Michigan prepares for a free fishing weekend, a group of 50+ scientists sent a letter to state Attorney General Bill Schuette urging him to drop his opposition to federal standards for mercury pollution that are intended to lead to cleaner air and water. The AG has rejected requests from the Environmental Law & Policy Center and other health and environmental groups to withdraw from a lawsuit seeking to block the standard.

“There is no good reason for the attorney general to oppose federal mercury standards that will decrease harmful pollution in the state’s waterways,” says Margrethe Kearney, an ELPC Staff Attorney in Grand Rapids, Mich. “The AG’s job is to protect the citizens of Michigan, and he can do that by withdrawing the state from the lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Even Michigan’s coal plants are complying with the new standard.”

This morning, a letter signed by more than 50 scientists who live and work in Michigan was delivered to the Attorney General’s office. They are asking the AG to call off his fight against the federal Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS), which was adopted by the U.S. EPA to improve the quality of air we breathe, assure that local fish are safer to eat, and protect and preserve wildlife and natural spaces from harmful pollution originating in Michigan and elsewhere.

“Most of the mercury deposited in Michigan comes from coal-fired power plant emissions and a substantial amount comes from plants in other states,” says Joel Blum, Professor of Earth & Environmental Sciences at the University of Michigan. “By enforcing the U.S. EPA’s MATS we have an important path to protect the air and water in our state by limiting emissions from coal-fired power plants beyond our state borders that deposit harmful mercury in Michigan.”

Scientists also signed on to the letter to Attorney General Schuette because they are concerned about the damaging effects of mercury on our bodies, especially for young children that are still developing, for pregnant women, and others.

“Even adults exposed to mercury can experience damage to their nervous system, and some new research shows there are possible impacts on the immune and cardiovascular systems,” says Jerome Nriagu, Emeritus Professor of Environmental Health Sciences at the University of Michigan. “Most of mercury’s harmful effects on human health come from eating contaminated fish.”

Here is a copy of the scientist letter sent to the Attorney General today:

In addition, the U.S. Supreme Court today will decide whether to discuss or dismiss the case led by Attorney General Schuette and the state of Michigan. The court’s decision will be announced Monday.

ELPC hosted a press briefing on this subject today. Click here to listen to a podcast.

In the mean time, Michigan residents will want to know what fish are safe for them to eat if they catch any in local rivers, lakes and streams. Michigan’s Department of Health and Human Services offers valuable information about safe fish consumption broken down by region. Here’s a link: