Mercury emissions from power plants on the rise in the U.S.

Mercury emissions in the U.S. fell by nearly 2 percent between 2003 and 2004, according to newly released federal data, but that small bit of good news masks a troubling trend. Mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants were actually up 4 percent over the same period, according to a Chicago Tribune analysis, thanks to increases in 28 states, including Texas, Missouri, and Illinois. The Bush administration’s plan for decreasing mercury emissions — a cap-and-trade system that gives utilities until 2017 to cut emissions by 70 percent — is widely seen as weak, so many state-level politicians are coming up with their own plans. Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) is pushing to reduce mercury emissions from coal plants by 90 percent over three years, and similar measures are being discussed in Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania. Mercury pollution can cause all sorts of nasty health problems in humans, from messed-up nervous systems to brain damage.