Monday, March 10, 2008


This is the biggest story Mercury Falling will hopefully ever post. And probably the last. If this was a newspaper, the headline across the top would be huge -- like the classic from The Onion's "Our Dumb Century" on the beginning of Wold War II which featured huge print for the headline "WA-" and then below it wrote "(headline continued on page 2)"


As a loyal reader of Mercury Falling, you can see every other post on here concerns how much JEA emits from its coal-burning power plants. And from any public information you can find, the answer is...a lot. But here's the kicker. Thanks to federal regulations known as the Clean Air Interstate Rule, calling for lower emissions of other pollutants like Nitrous Oxide and Sulfur Dioxide, JEA is installing equipment known as selective catalytic reducers (similar to the catalytic converter in your car) that will lower mercury emissions by as much as 90%, perhaps more. To be more specific. Northside Generating Station has already installed this equipment and St. Johns River Power Park is set to be fully up and running with the pollution-reducing by January 2009. These mercury emissions are estimates, so in addition, St. Johns River Power Park will have active monitoring technology installed as well by January 2009, to comply with the federal Clean Air Mercury Rule. Here is a more technical description, straight from JEA:

St. Johns River Power Park (SJRPP) includes an electrostatic precipitator (ESP) and a flue gas desulfurization system (FGDS). SJRPP is currently installing Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) primarily for the removal of nitrogen oxides. However, just like the other controls already deployed, the SCR aids in the removal of mercury. With the addition of the SCRs in 2009, SJRPP expects to be removing 90% of the mercury from its air emissions. In addition, Northside Generating Station Units 1 & 2 already have a boiler technology known as circulating fluidized bed (CFB)combustors, complimented with dry flue gas scrubbing, that are currently removing 90% or more of the mercury from their emissions. Ninety percent (90%) is the level of mercury removal that many environmental groups sought from the federal government during its promulgation of the first rule ever to regulate mercury emissions from power plants.

  1. The big picture...cleaner air and water for Jacksonville! Hooray!
  2. Maybe this blog was pointless? The blog did not achieve its intended effect, convince JEA, the city council, and the city that its a good idea to produce cleaner power. And most of what this blog reported about JEA was inaccurate and not up-to-date thanks due to inaccurate information that was publicly available.
  3. Federal regulations are extremely important. It seems that the only reason JEA is reducing mercury pollution (as well as Nitrous Oxide and Sulfur Dioxide) is because federal regulations are forcing JEA to be cleaner. Without them, these pollutants would still be pumped into Jacksonville's air, and at least in the case of mercury, fall into Jacksonville's water at unknown expense to residents' health and the local economy. Any time you hear a politician berate the federal government and so how ineffectual it is, consider this point. Any time you hear a business complain of regulations, consider this point. And, of course, VOTE! In every race. Always.
  4. Should JEA ever act solely because it is the best thing to do for the community? Again, seems like the only reason that JEA is reducing pollution is because Washington told it to. But the city of Jacksonville owns JEA, not Washington. So should, and will, and can JEA ever take actions like this simply because it is best for the community? Or will JEA only act when the federal government forces it to? Don't have any clue to the answer, but the question is worth asking.
  5. JEA needs to communicate more with its customers/owners. As a monopoly, JEA has recently been criticized for seeking to spend $7 million over the next 5 years on advertising. But, clearly, JEA is not even doing a good job of letting the public know the positive things it is doing in the community, let alone seeking to change behavior (i.e., teaching users the how and why to conserve) that can save the utility the huge expense of having to add new capacity. There have been several articles in the local media as well as big pushes by groups to publicize how much mercury JEA emits. If JEA had a good story to tell, that it is lowering pollutants, it should have done so. As far as Mercury Falling knows, the entry you're currently reading is the only publicly available information about JEA reducing mercury emissions. Just search "JEA mercury emissions" and you'll see all the information still out there, unrefuted, that shows JEA is a huge mercury polluter. JEA has been reaching out to the community about its stewardship in general and appears to be attempting to do more (Mercury Falling was at a meeting called to inform a few groups about the proposed Southside Generating Station) and should be applauded for that. But, hey, let JEA have the money to educate the community on saving energy and money. And then let's hold JEA accountable for doing a good job on that.
  6. Goodbye, Mercury Falling. This will be the last post of Mercury Falling since JEA is reducing its emissions by 90%, which is all Mercury Falling was looking for anyway.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

From Michael Skok, Candidate for President

The ideal solution to the mercury problem would be to store the waste mercury in a giant underground tank. Then use electricity from solar power generator plants, and/or whatever it takes, to recycle the waste mercury into useable products.

Monday, January 21, 2008

From Daniel Imperato, Candidate for President

I am not an expert on mercury, but if this is dangerous and having effects on our wetlands and children it should have beed addressed and something done about it already. That is the problem with Washington and Democrats and Republicans -- nothing will change except for less or none in your pockects. We need a third party. I am ready to defend the people. We need your support

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Fish Fog Hot Spot: Great name for a band, but bad news for Jacksonville?

What is a fish fog hot spot? And does this label fit Jacksonville? Read on...our sad story begins in a recent article in the Pensacola News Journal, "Emissions down, but not at coal-burning plants," which said that almost every industry in the nation has reduced mercury content except the power industry.

Why should you care?

As many as 600,000 babies may be born in the U.S. each year with irreversible brain damage because pregnant mothers ate mercury-contaminated fish, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Medical researchers are just beginning to explore the effect of mercury exposure on adults that leaves some in a disorienting "fish fog."
Why should you care if you live in Jacksonville?
JEA is a major emitter of mercury in Jacksonville. And while the EPA is coming out with regulations in the next few years to lower mercury emissions nationwide, this "cap and trade" system could mean that JEA could just buy indulgences instead of actually lowering emissions. Would that mean higher rates with the same high mercury emissions? And is Jacksonville already a fish fog hot spot? According to the article...
The EPA mercury program also allows power plant operators to purchase mercury pollution credits from cleaner plants. Critics warn the trading system could let the worst polluters off the hook and foster "hot spots" with dangerously high levels of mercury.
Will these EPA regulations help lower mercury emissions in Jacksonville?
James Pew, an attorney for Earthjustice, calls the EPA rule a "free pass for the polluters." It "means more mercury pollution, more waters made unsafe for fishing and more young children made susceptible to mercury contamination," he said.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Who says there are no mountains in Jacksonville?

While the highest point in Jacksonville might only be 54 feet, we do have mountains here. You could say we import them. According to Appalachian Voices, there are two coal-fired power plants in the JEA service area that have been purchasing coal directly from mountaintop removal operations in Central Appalachia in the last five years - St Johns River Power Park and Cedar Bay Generating LP. Not only does Appalachia lose its mountains, but by burning that coal, Jacksonville's waterways get all that mercury that's been locked up in those mountains. Shipping Appalachian mountains to Jacksonville...what's next, sending the St. Johns River to South Florida? Oh, yeah, there are plans for that, too.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Temtped by the Fruit of Another

Since Florida is a noncompetitive electricity market, residents of Jacksonville are stuck in a long-term relationship with JEA and its mercury spewing ways. But, oh, to take a look around the state and see FPL - it seems so attractive. While JEA keeps spewing the mercury using a fuel from Charles Dickens era, FPL has kept up with the times (those are FPL's windmills in the picture). For example, FPL Group Inc. plans to invest $2.4 billion over several years in zero-mercury-emissions technology -- solar-thermal and other renewable energy products. FPL Group is making this investment while providing a 36% total shareholder return. As a citizen of Jacksonville, and therefore a "shareholder" of city-owned JEA, what kind of return are you getting?

Higher rates and mercury emissions. And since Florida is a noncompetitive market, JEA has no competition. That's why strong government oversight is so important. Email the mayor and city council, and tell them you're tired of JEA's mercury emissions and its reliance on Charles Dickens era coal. As for now, our relationship with JEA is like a Britney Spears song...toxic.

Monday, November 5, 2007

These are Some Fly-Ash Bricks

We already know that JEA spews a lot of mercury into the air. But with no known plans to improve its emissions technology or reduce its dependency on coal (which by itself would be a good idea, since coal prices have more than doubled over the past four years and coal faces deteriorating grades and rising costs according to today's Wall Street Journal), how can JEA mitigate all these mercury emissions? Well, check out this innovation, reported in Time magazine:

Kicking Ash

Each year coal-fired power plants dump millions of tons of mercury-laced ash into landfills. Henry Liu has found a way to compress this waste into fly-ash bricks that are eco-friendlier than their clay counterparts. The bricks conserve energy (they're made at room temperature), and tests suggest they may even suck mercury out of the surrounding air.
Available 2009
JEA should license this technology and produce its own bricks for the area's booming construction industry. Not only are there public health benefits for such a move, but it would be a new revenue stream for rate-increase happy JEA.

Photo by heyu1021