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States Limit Mercury Emissions While the Feds Fail to Act

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Thursday, February 22, 2007

Strengthening Communities

by J. Mijin Cha

States Limit Mercury Emissions While the Feds Fail to Act

Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania sued the Bush Administration this week claiming they failed to adequately regulate emissions of mercury and other pollutants at older cement plant kilns.  Last December, the EPA announced new limits on mercury and hydrocarbon emissions from cement kilns built after December 2, 2005, but left weak rules in place for kilns from before that date.  The states argue that the Clean Air Act requires the EPA to limit mercury from all kilns, not just new ones. 

The EPA's mercury reduction plan as a whole is lacking.  In addition to weak regulations on cement kilns, the federal regulations concerning mercury emissions from coal fired power plants also fall short of the mark.  Critics point out that newer emissions control technology could reduce mercury emissions from coal fired power plants between 75 and 90 percent in just the next few years.  Trying to obscure this fact, the EPA distorted the analysis of its mercury pollution regulation plan to make it appear that the Bush administration's approach was superior to proposals supported by environmentalists, according to an analysis by the non-partisan General Accounting Office.

And again, it's been up to the states to take the lead and pick up the federal government's slack:

  • Illinois Governor Blagojevich proposed a plan to cut mercury emissions from power plants by 90 percent by 2009.  Governor Blagojevich's proposal also eliminates the emissions trading allowed under the federal plan, forcing power plants to decrease emissions instead of delaying reductions by buying cleaner credits.  The proposal received final approval last December.
  • Georgia has proposed an across the board mercury capture of between 80-85 percent by 2010 and 90 percent by 2015.  More than 15 percent of children born in Georgia have dangerous levels of mercury in their blood, putting them at risk for cerebral palsy, delayed neurological milestones, and lifelong learning deficiencies.
  • Connecticut legislators surpassed the EPA regulation even before the newest regulations came out.  In 2003, CT passed a bill requiring a 90 percent reduction in mercury emissions.  Wisconsin also passed a stricter emission limit before the new EPA regulation, calling for an 80 percent reduction
  • At least twenty-two states in total have adopted more stringent regulations, accelerated compliance deadlines, restricted interstate trading of mercury, or adopted more than one of these approachs.   

Twenty-two states disagree with the EPA's mercury reduction plan,  a plan that was adopted under the usual Bush adminstration M.O.: lack of transparency, distortion of facts, and a final product that will never achieve the necessary results. 

More Resources

Valuing Families

by Adam Thompson

Children on the Front-Lines of Health Care Battle

While President Bush and Congress duke it out over funding and reauthorizing the State Children's Health Insurance Program, states are moving forward with universal kids coverage.  

President Bush wants to erase his exploded deficit on the backs of children, families and seniors.  He has proposed over $100 billion in cuts from Medicaid and Medicare over the next five years, achieved by requiring low-income children and their families and seniors to pay more for benefits and through cuts in payments to hospitals and doctors.  Cynically, he seeks no sacrifice from private insurance companies that carry Medicare plans.

Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of Congressional members have proposed a $50 billion package that would reauthorize SCHIP for the next five years and cover an additional 9 million children.

Despite the uncertainty created by this large gulf separating Bush and Congress, states are pushing ahead with universal kids coverage, many of which build on SCHIP:

  • The Washington State Senate passed SB 5093, a bill proposed by Gov. Christine Gregoire to make sure all children have health insurance by 2010.  The bill creates a seamless program of coverage for children with free or subsidized care on a sliding scale to 300% of poverty, roughly $60,000 for a family of four.  Families earning more can purchase the coverage without subsidy.
  • Gov. Jim Doyle of Wisconsin has proposed a major expansion of health care that will include universal kids coverage by combining the state's Medicaid programs into one, called Badger Care Plus. 
  • Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski's Healthy Kids Plan will provide free or subsidized health care to children living in families with incomes up to $80,000. The proposal hinges on an 84.5 cent cigarette tax increase that has raised objections from Republican legislators. Despite Democratic majorities in both houses, the tax increase requires a three-fifths vote, putting passage of the plan in jeopardy. To help move it along, US Senator Gordon Smith (R-Oregon) has come out in favor of the proposal and the cigarette tax increase.
  • Legislators in Minnesota are moving the Children's Health Security Act through the committee process.  The bill would phase in universal kids coverage by 2010.  Although Gov. Tim Pawlenty has not weighed in on the Children's Health Security Act, he has committed to universal kids coverage as a first step towards broader health care reform. 

Other states, like California and Kansas, are moving universal kids coverage or expansions of existing programs.  In addition, reforms already enacted in 2005 and 2006 in Illinois, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, aim for universal kids coverage. 

Each state that pursues and enacts universal kids coverage increases the pressure on Washington D.C., and particularly the Bush Administration, to stay at the table and provide the funds necessary to adequately fund SCHIP and continue the federal/state partnership that has covered millions of America's children.

More Resources

Increasing Democracy

By Nathan Newman

Voter ID Laws Suppressing Voter Turnout

Concerns that new voter identification rules are discouraging voter turnout, especially by voters in communities of color, is proving justified, new research shows.  A report prepared for the federal Election Assistance Commission finds that in states with voter ID requirements, such as forcing people to present utility bills or other documents:

  • Blacks were 5.7 percent less likely to vote than in states where voters simply had to say their names
  • Hispanics appeared to be 10 percent less likely to vote under those requirements.

So we have evidence of up to 10% vote suppression in some populations, yet no evidence of significant voter fraud in any state.  While the full report hasn't been released publicly yet, the authors wrote this academic paper where they argue, "strict voter identification requirements, designed to promote legitimate election results, could actually undermine that legitimacy instead."

More Resources

Research Roundup

Research Roundup

If you want to know how cuts in education and social programs proposed in President Bush's budget are likely to effect your state, check out this state-by-state analysis prepared by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

The Brennan Center for Justice has released an updated analysis of how new state laws are undermining voter registration efforts by non-partisan non-profit organizations, a trend that may significantly reduce voter registration in these states in coming years.

The American Constitution Society has published an issue brief by James Brudney highlighting why "card check" systems of recognizing unions are increasingly seen as a fairer alternative to traditional NLRB-supervised elections, a useful analysis as a number of states adopt card check systems for recognizing state employee unions.

A new Kaiser Family Foundation report further details the decline in employer-provided health insurance.  The report emphasizes that this decline is largest among low-income and non-white workers, with 55 percent of employees from poor families having no access to employer-provided health care either through their own work or a family member's employer. 

States Limit Mercury Emissions While the Feds Fail to Act

"Illionois, others sue government mercury emission rules," http://www.dailyherald.com/news/illinoisstory.asp?id=283624

"22 States Say EPA Too Soft on Mercury," http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2006/11/17/national/w172032S93.DTL&type=politics

General Accounting Office, Clean Air Act, Observations on EPA's Cost-Benefit Analysis of Its Mercury Control Options

"EPA Distorted Mercury Analysis, GAO Says," http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A15244-2005Mar7.html

Connecticut Mercury Reduction Act: http://www.cga.ct.gov/2003/act/Pa/2003PA-00072-R00HB-06048-PA.htm

New Jersey Mercury Reduction Plan: http://www.nj.gov/dep/rules/adoptions/mercury_rule7-27.pdf

Wisconsin Mercury Reduction Plan: http://www.dnr.state.wi.us/org/aw/air/reg/mercury/nr446.pdf
EPA's Federal Mercury Emissions Reduction Rule: http://www.epa.gov/oar/mercuryrule/pdfs/fr20061208_fedplan.pdf
 

Children on the Front-Lines of Health Care Battle

NCSL - Children's Health Insurance Reform: Increasing Coverage and Expanding Access in the States

Kaiser Family Foundation - SCHIP at a Glance and resources related Children's Coverage and the Reauthoirzation of SCHIP

Families USA Action Center - "Tell Congress to Cover America's Children"

Voter ID Laws Suppressing Voter Turnout

Eagleton Institute, Testimony presented to the U. S. Election Assistance Commission (February 8, 2007).

TImoth Vercellotti and David Andersen, Protecting the franchise, or restricting it? The effects of voter identification requirements on turnout

Progressive States Network, Cleaning up Election Day Disasters

Century Foundation, Where's the Voter Fraud?

NCSL, Requirements for Voter Identification

Eye on the Right

GA: Senate panel approves measure to give pipeline builders more power to take land

The Georgia Senate committee voted yesterday to losen the requirements on petroleum pipeline builders looking to aquire land by eminent domain. A 75 foot area around previous pipelines would be exempt from regulations passed in 1995, potentially making way for everwidening pipeline right-of-ways.

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Masthead

The Stateside Dispatch is written and edited by:

Nathan Newman, Policy Director
Mijin Cha, Policy Specialist
Adam Thompson, Policy Specialist
John Bacino, Communications Associate

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Please shoot me an email at jbacino@progressivestates.org if you have feedback, tips, suggestions, criticisms, or nominations for any of our sidebar features.

John Bacino
Editor, Stateside Dispatch

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