Senator Obama Introduces Bill to Phase Out Mercury Use in Chlorine Production
Press Release Date: October 1, 2009
Location: Washington, DC
Following the release of a new Oceana report, U.S. Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) late yesterday afternoon reintroduced the Missing Mercury in Manufacturing Monitoring and Mitigation Act. This bill would phase out the use of mercury-cell technology in chlorine production by the year 2012. According to Oceana’s new report, Cleaning Up: Taking Mercury-Free Chlorine Production to the Bank, this switch is not only good for public health and the environment, but also for the company’s bottom line.
“Senator Obama recognizes that mercury knows no boundaries, and that we need to reduce releases into our environment to help make seafood safe for our kids,” said Jackie Savitz , Director of Oceana’s Campaign to Stop Seafood Contamination. “Our new report shows that shifting to readily available membrane technology will save companies money while reducing mercury releases that can contaminate fish and affect our health.”
Mercury-cell technology was developed in 1894, and its continued use results in tons of mercury releases into the environment each year. Even though mercury-free technology is already used to produce 90 percent of the chlorine in the United States, five facilities refuse to switch, resulting in the release of four times more mercury per plant, on average, than the average power plant.
Oceana’s new report illustrates that the transition resulting from the Obama Bill would pay considerable dividends for these facilities. Since membrane technology – the best alternative to mercury use – is more energy efficient, the plants will save 20 to 37 percent on electricity. Electricity alone can make up half of total production costs.
“Mercury use in chlorine production isn’t just bad for the environment, it’s also bad for business,” said Oceana’s Simon Mahan, the report’s lead author. Many plants that have shifted to membrane technology have increased production capacity by 20 to 80 percent, increasing sales and profit. Additionally, the millions of dollars spent managing mercury can be eliminated by switching to membrane technology.
Several plants have stated that these benefits allow such a conversion to pay for itself in five years. Oceana’s new report shares the experiences of 115 plants that have chosen to eliminate mercury use in chlorine production, and estimates the costs and benefits of shifting for the remaining five facilities.
“Because mercury use is unnecessary and because these plants are major mercury releasers, Senator Obama’s bill addresses a problem that has a clear solution, and that is good for business,” said Savitz.
Oceana’s report is available at www.oceana.org.