U.S. blocks binding mercury treaty

U.N.-brokered international talks on mercury-reduction plans wrapped up last week. Instead of the legally binding global treaty favored by the European Union, the result was a plan to curb mercury emissions through “voluntary partnerships” among member countries, international organizations, and industries. “Voluntary” being the buzzword closest to the Bush administration’s, uh, heart, U.S. negotiators were upbeat about the outcome: “I’m really encouraged that we all came together at the end,” said the State Department’s Claudia McMurray. “Everyone is enthusiastic about this [partnership] approach.” But Linda Greer, health programs director at the Natural Resources Defense Council, didn’t get the enthusiasm memo. “I don’t consider the partnerships much of a step forward at all,” she said. “With the U.S. refusing to listen to anything but their own idea, it was impossible to accomplish more. They were really bullies at the meeting.”