Sylvania light bulbs company warns governors to derail mercury policies
Advocates rebut Slyvania claims that “proper” lamp disposal doesn’t release mercury.The New England Governors heard from industry lobbyist Charlie Jerabek--president and CEO of OSRAM SYLVANIA--on Monday, who attempted to place a chill on their mercury policies. Jerabek asserted that if “lamps that contain mercury are disposed of properly, there is no environmental release of mercury.” Today, advocates rebutted Slyvania’s claims and urged the Governors to support policies to protect people and not polluters.
“ It is misleading to say that there is no environmental release of mercury when lamps are ‘disposed of properly,’ ” said Sheila Dormody, Rhode Island director of Clean Water Action, “Since ‘proper disposal’ to the lamp makers historically does not mean recycling, but rather dumping light bulbs into trash where the mercury is instantly released if incinerated or vaporizes out over time from landfills.”
Dormody referenced Department of Energy and State environmental agency studies documenting that whenever fluorescent light bulbs are broken, their mercury is immediately released in trash cans, garbage trucks and on the face of a landfill.
In a thinly veiled threat to the governors and their model mercury reduction legislation, Jerabek warned that “unreasonable requirements that have been suggested in some states will eliminate these products from the marketplace or increase the cost by making manufacturing in North America more difficult.”
“Once again, lamp makers are using scare tactics, and irresponsible and erroneous information to unduly influence decision-makers,” said Michael Bender of the Mercury Policy Project. “There is no basis in truth for statements that products will be eliminated from the U.S. market or that production will move out of the U.S. because of reasonable and rationale environmental regulation.”
Bender pointed to a recent federal court ruling overruling lamp maker objections and upholding a 1998 Vermont law requiring the labeling of fluorescent light bulbs so that they could more easily be identified for recycling. As a result, lamp makers have announced that they plan on labeling lamps nationwide.
While Sylvania’s statement implies that changeovers to energy efficient lighting will be lost as a result of new disposal regulations, the record clearly shows that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency spent several years studying the tradeoff between the use of energy-efficient mercury lamps and power plant mercury emissions. In its findings, reflected on Sylvania’s website, the EPA concluded that lamps must be recycled in order to realize mercury emissions reductions and that the cost of recycling only added 2% to total lifecycle cost. The EPA requires mercury lamp recycling with the Universal Waste Rule published in July 1999.
In 1998, the governors and premiers recognized the severity of the mercury contamination problem and pledged to virtually eliminate emissions from the region. Several New England states have enacted or are considering legislation to ban the disposal of mercury lamps in trash by requiring that they be recycled instead and to require lamp makers to finance collection and recycling programs to keep mercury in lamps from escaping during disposal in landfills and incinerators.
Today, the conference will hear the report from their Mercury Task Force on the progress toward mercury elimination. Since the 1998 commitment, their coordinated efforts have led to a 55% reduction in mercury emissions.
Jerabek’s remarks came just as the New England Zero Mercury released their annual report card on the governors’ progress in eliminating mercury emissions throughout the region. Caught in the Middle: The 2003 Report Card On Mercury Elimination In New England finds that the governors’ intentions to prevent mercury emissions have been held up by industry lobbyists working to undermine pollution prevention efforts.
"Our governors made an important commitment to eliminate mercury emissions here in New England," said Dormody. "They have made it past the halfway mark, now we need them to maintain the political will and courage to finish this job they've started. That's the only way we'll be able to protect our children's health and the environment."
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Mark Harris contributes and publishes news editorial to http://www.discount-light-bulbs.com.
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