Under a compromise agreement, legislation was passed into law in May 2006 that requires Minnesota’s largest coal-fired power plants to cut mercury emissions by 90 percent by 2015.
Utilities were brought on board by allowing immediate recovery from ratepayers the cost of installing the necessary pollution control equipment.
The legislation exceeds the Federal government’s requirement of a 70 percent reduction by 2018. Activists supporting the state legislation were convinced that the cap and trade aspects of the proposed Federal rules would not result in substantial mercury reductions within the state of Minnesota. A May 2006 report by the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Inspector General expressed similar concerns about EPA’s cap and trade proposal.
To meet the MN legislative directive, the coal plants plants must install emissions collectors that will be funded by an estimated monthly increase in residential electricity bills of $0.55 to $1.55 once all requirements are met.
Mercury Free Minnesota, a consortium of environmental and conservation groups, estimates Minnesota’s total mercury emissions at 3,340 pounds per year, with 1,650 of that coming from coal plants. Once fully implemented, the new law combined with an existing coal-plant repowering program is expected to reduce mercury emissions from the coal-power sector to 280 lbs/yr.
The bill focuses only on the coal plants with the largest mercury emissions, collectively responsible for 70 percent of the total. They are Xcel Energy plants at Oak Park Heights and Becker, and a Minnesota Power facility in Cohasset.
- Full Text of the Minnesota Mercury Emissions Reduction Act of 2006 (Laws of MN 2006, Chapter 201) – enacted May 11, 2006
- MN Pollution Control Agency has a section on Mercury Reduction Efforts in Minnesota
- Mercury Free Minnesota
- Monitoring Needed to Assess Impact of EPA’s Clean Air Mercury Rule on Potential Hotspots – Environmental Protection Agency Office of Inspector General, May 15, 2006
- New Rules Project’s Selection of Mercury Pollution ReductionPolicies