Getting the Mercury Out May Prove Profitable for Power Plants

July 8, 2004
The McIlvaine Company, a consultant to utilities, government agencies and contractors, says it submitted a plan to the EPA for removing mercury from power plant stacks. Not only would the plan cut mercury emissions, but plants that install the new technology could make a profit on their investments. The essence of the plan is that higher-emitting utilities will pay lower-emitting utilities an amount based on the number of pounds of mercury they emit. A utility that installs equipment to cut mercury emissions would receive payments from utilities that don’t. The amount would escalate each year until national reduction goals are reached. “With deployment of the latest technology, mercury emissions would be reduced as rapidly as economically possible,” says Bob McIlvaine, president of McIlvaine, Northfield, Ill. McIlvaine’s plan is at odds with EPA. McIlvaine says EPA’s proposed Interstate Air Quality Rule (IAQR) will result in significant elimination of hazardous air pollutants, but it fails to address fine particulate metal toxics. In fact, loopholes in the IAQR would allow a utility to discharge all its mercury and still receive credit for a mercury reduction. This is because the EPA’s proposed method for monitoring mercury excludes particulate mercury. It’s easy to convert gaseous mercury to particulate mercury, so a utility could discharge the particulates and get credit for cutting emissions. McIlvaine’s proposed plan entails developing a “harm rating” for each pollutant, setting long term goals for eliminating pollutants, and charging utilities for amounts emitted. McIlvaine’s plan calls for penalties up to $10,000 per ton on mercury. To see the complete plan, go to