HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Concordia University School of Law

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

United States and Mercury Restrictions: Do as we say, not as we do?

Yesterday marked the beginning of the Intergovernmental Negotiation Committee  (INC) meeting in Nairobi to attempt to negotiate a legally binding agreement on the international control of mercury. Negotiators hope to finish the talks in 2013 and start circulating a treaty for ratification afterward. According to Greenwire, U.S. negotiators are calling for a ban on new mercury mines, and phase out the use of mercury in a specific set of products, such as batteries, thermometers and dental amalgam, and establish binding emissions targets for "unintentional" emissions of mercury in heavily polluting countries.

Congress needs to stop holding up federal mercury control regulations so that the U.S can demonstrate the same commitment to mercury safety as our negotiators in Nairobi are urging other countries to adopt. The Administration has consistently remained committed, proposing mercury and air toxics standards for power plants in July (Federal register notice available here). Opposition in Congress has held it up, responding to the concerns of industry that that mercury control is too expensive and will hurt the economy (see my blog postings here on April 5 and July 19). As developing countries seek growth of industries and jobs, it is in our own best interests to help guide them to be as safe as possible, since pollution does not respect national borders. Congress must not place the Administration in a hypocritical position where its international treaty requests conflict with its  national actions.


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