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TRI highlights need for regulation of
nation's largest mercury polluter

Metal mining maintains position as nation's #1 toxic polluter

Mar 19, Washington, D.C. — Today the Environmental Protection Agency published the most recent Toxics Release Inventory. Once again the nation's largest polluter is the metal mining industry: of 4.09 billion pounds of toxics reported, 1.15 billion pounds were released by mining — more than 28% by just one industry.

Unfortunately, one of the most serious threats to our nation's drinking water supply is left unknown. Oil & gas producers do not have to report under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to- Know Act (EPCRA), the legislation authorizing TRI.

“Due to increasing energy demand, drilling for oil & gas now occurs in 34 states including New York and Pennsylvania,” said Jennifer Goldman, Public health and toxics director of EARTHWORKS' Oil & Gas Accountability Project. She continued, “communities nationwide are impacted, yet they're in the dark because drillers don't have to report the toxics they release.”

“My community's drinking water is supplied by wells, some of which are now polluted by a gas well underground explosion,” said Deb Thomas, a community organizer from Clark, Wyoming. She continued, “at least twenty-five wells are in the path of a toxic groundwater plume as a result. It's very challenging to address the contamination without any forewarning — what TRI provides — about the drilling toxics that we now know threaten our drinking water.”

The power of the Toxics Release Inventory has revealed the extent of the threat of mercury mining pollution. According the TRI, metal mining accounted for 90% of all reported mercury releases, 6.22 million pounds.

Although the mining industry is a significant source of mercury air pollution, there are no federal regulations that require mines to reduce mercury air emissions. A recent court decision requires the EPA to initiate a rule-making by August 15, 2009.

“It makes no sense that the mining industry gets a pass, when there are federal regulations requiring the other major industries to cut emissions to deal with the nation's mercury problem,” said Bonnie Gestring, EARTHWORKS' Northwest Circuit Rider.