DETROIT, Oct. 14, 2002 — DTE Energy is committing $50,000 to a study to improve the scientific community’s understanding of power-plant mercury emissions, including whether the emissions are deposited locally or dispersed globally.
The study is being conducted by Frontier Geosciences and other national research organizations on behalf of the Electric Power Research Institute.
Coal naturally contains a small amount of mercury, which enters the atmosphere in power plant emissions. In a 1998 report to Congress, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency stated that U.S. electric utilities account for an estimated 1 percent of total global emissions.
“A better understanding of the action of mercury in the atmosphere will help utilities and regulatory agencies develop emissions standards that address both local and global impacts,” said Skiles Boyd, director, environmental management and resources for DTE Energy. “For example, if those emissions are dispersed globally, an extreme reduction by U.S. utilities will not produce a significant benefit because of the industry’s 1-percent global contribution.
“While mercury emissions from Detroit Edison power plants are below regional averages for power plants, we are committed to working with all stakeholders to determine the extent to which additional mercury reductions would be beneficial, and how those cuts should be achieved,” Boyd said.
“We believe the findings will clarify the impact — if any — of mercury emissions on local geographic areas and help determine prudent emission reductions,” Boyd said. “This data will then be used with other studies to better understand if power-plant mercury emissions ultimately contribute to mercury levels in fish. Fish consumption is the primary way in which humans are exposed to mercury from the environment.”
The study will include direct measurement of mercury levels in flue gas plumes — which will be collected by aircraft — and laboratory analysis of flue gas samples.
“This study should contribute substantially to the scientific body of knowledge on the action of mercury in the environment,” said Keith G. Harrison, Executive Director of the Michigan Environmental Science Board (MESB). “It should help answer one of the more critical questions regarding mercury emissions: Do they measurably impact mercury levels in surface waters near the emissions source?”
The MESB is an autonomous state agency that provides independent scientific and technical advice to the Governor of Michigan and to state departments, as requested by the Governor, on matters affecting the protection and management of Michigan’s environment and natural resources. The MESB had previously conducted an extensive investigation on the environmental and human health concerns of mercury, which cited the lack of good information on how mercury behaves in the atmosphere as one area in need of additional research.
A project review panel including representatives of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy will evaluate the study plan, data, results and analysis. The findings will be published in a peer- reviewed journal.
Detroit Edison is committed to protecting the environment while providing reliable and affordable electric power to its customers. “While we are proud of our achievements,” Boyd said, “we recognize the need for continued efforts to prevent or reduce emissions, including voluntary measures and reasonable regulations.”
Since the 1970s, Detroit Edison has invested or has committed to spend nearly $2 billion on equipment and programs to prevent air and water pollution. The company continues to spend about $40 million a year to operate and maintain these systems, and will spend an additional $20 million a year to operate NOx reduction equipment at the Monroe Power Plant.
Detroit Edison is an investor-owned electric utility serving 2.1 million customers in Southeastern Michigan and a subsidiary of DTE Energy, a Detroit-based diversified energy company involved in the development and management of energy-related businesses and services nationwide. Information about DTE Energy is available at http://www.dteenergy.com .
Source: DTE Energy