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AGs want New GM to continue mercury program

By Keith Loria | Jan 31, 2011


BOSTON (Legal Newsline) - Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley announced on Friday that she has joined attorneys general and agency heads from eight other states in asking General Motors to continue in a National Vehicle Mercury Switch Recovery Program.

The attorneys general sent a letter to the automotive giant requesting it take part in the highly successful and cost-effective NVMSRP.

The letter argues that by collecting and recycling mercury from vehicles at the end of their lifespan, it will prevent mercury from being emitted into the environment and posing significant risks of harm to human health.

"The National Vehicle Mercury Switch Recovery Program protects the public health of our children and residents at relatively low costs by removing mercury from the waste stream before it gets emitted into the environment," Coakley said. "This is a highly successful and effective program and we urge New GM to continue to fund the program."

Mercury exposure can lead to serious health effects, including damage to the nervous system, kidneys, liver and immune system. People have been exposed to mercury through eating contaminated fish and by breathing mercury fumes.

The NVMSRP was created in 2006 by automobile manufacturers and other businesses to comply with the various mandatory state laws and voluntary state programs. GM, which filed for bankruptcy and is now called Old GM, was the largest contributor to the program, accounting for as much as 54 percent of mercury-containing switches.

Old GM will stop funding the NVMSRP once its bankruptcy proceedings end. The attorneys general are hoping that New GM will continue with the program.

"When our vehicles reach the end of their useful life for their owners, we want to ensure that what happens to those vehicles is responsible for the environment," New GM says on its website. This, the attorneys general argue, is why the company should continue in the program.

In addition to Coakley, attorneys general from Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, and Vermont, as well as the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, the California Department of Toxic Substances Control, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, signed the letter.

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