How the Clean Air Mercury Rule will affect coal prices.
Hans Daniels is manager of Coal Advisory Services for Global Energy Decisions. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In March 2005, Acting Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Steve Johnson, signed into law the Clean Air Mercury Rule (CAMR), the first regulation to reduce mercury emissions from power plants in the United States. When fully implemented, CAMR will reduce electric utility mercury emissions by almost 70 percent from the 48 tons that were emitted in 1999.
Mercury is a toxic pollutant that is of greatest concern when it accumulates in the food chain. Concentrations of mercury in the air and land are typically low and do not pose any direct threat to human health. However, when airborne mercury deposits on the ground through precipitation, it eventually enters into rivers, lakes, and oceans. Once there, mercury may transform into methylmercury, its most toxic form to humans. Humans are exposed to methylmercury by eating fish from water where mercury is found. Predator fish in particular (e.g., salmon, shark, tuna, etc.) tend to bioaccumulate the greatest concentrations of methylmercury at levels thousands or even millions times greater than found in the water. Most Americans are exposed to mercury through the consumption of fish. However, roughly 80 percent of the fish consumed in America comes from overseas in waters beyond our control. In regions where fish from local waters are consumed, mercury hotspots likely will become future clean-up targets.