Today the Supreme Court granted a writ of certiorari on EPA’s 2012 ruling, Mercury and Air Toxics Standards. This ruling, projected in 2012 to result in the closing of 68 power plants supplying electricity to 22 million homes, is EPA’s version of swatting a gnat with an atomic bomb. Here’s some sobering numbers, from a 2010 article in the refereed scientific journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics Discussions:
Total emissions of mercury (in metric tons):
- From natural sources (mainly volcanoes and forest fires): 5200 tons
- From human activity: 2320 tons
- Total, natural and human: ~7500 tons
- Human activity in the US: 117 tons, or about 1.6% of global emissions
- From coal-fired electrical generation in the US: 48 tons, or about 0.6% of global emissions
- Amount that actually falls on our soil from our power plants: 12 tons, or about 0.2% of global emissions.
Mercury can reside in the atmosphere for up to two years, unless it is rained out as “wet deposition,” which means that a lot of what comes out of the volcanoes of the Pacific Rim and wildfires winds up here.
If EPA was really serious about Mercury it would issue regulations capping volcanoes and outlawing wildfires.