by Nachy Kanfer
Sierra Club National Coal Campaign – Ohio
FirstEnergy Generation Corp. has requested that the Ohio EPA issue a
'mercury variance' for their Lake Shore coal-fired power plant, located
just off Lake Erie near E. 72 St in Cleveland. This means FirstEnergy
would face much less stringent restrictions on how much mercury can be
present in the wastewater that is discharged from the plant. As the law
currently stands, FirstEnergy is required to reduce mercury levels in
the wastewater below 1.3 parts per trillion by November, 2010. If Ohio
EPA grants a mercury variance, this requirement will no longer exist.
Mercury is a neurotoxin that builds up in fish and is known to cause
delayed development and mental retardation in children. One in six women
nationwide already has such high mercury levels in her blood that she
cannot safely bear children.
The Lake Shore coal-fired power plant is a bad environmental neighbor.
For the past twelve consecutive quarters, federal agencies have found
the Lake Shore plant to be non-compliant for various environmental standards.
At least twice in the past five years, the plant has been issued a formal
notice of violation. Additionally, of all Ohio utilities, FirstEnergy
has dragged its feet the most when it comes to implementing last year's
Senate Bill 221, which mandates an aggressive increase in energy efficiency.
Neighborhoods surrounding the Lake Shore plant, including the Hough
neighborhood, present a textbook case for environmental justice. Within
a 3-mile radius of the facility, 90% of residents are members of racial
minority groups, and over 43% of households are making less than $15,000
per year. Local residents also find themselves above the 90th percentile
nationwide in terms of risk for cancer, neurological hazards, and respiratory
hazards. The last thing the local community needs is another environmental
risk, this time in the form of mercury.
Sierra Club's Position
Sierra Club strongly opposes granting a mercury variance to FirstEnergy
for its Lake Shore coal-fired power plant. Sierra Club suggests if FirstEnergy
does not wish to invest in pollution control equipment, the company should
consider shutting the plant down, instead. Within a few months, Ohio
EPA will hold a public hearing on this issue (exact date not yet determined).
We urge all our members, volunteers and supporters to contact us if you
wish to be notified when this hearing takes place. Additionally, please
consider taking action to urge the EPA not to grant FirstEnergy the mercury
For a more technical version of our position
and for more details on the issue, download a copy of our formal
comments to Ohio EPA (PDF 151 K).