U.S. Signs Minamata Treaty to Reduce Global Trade in Mercury, Source Emissions

By Pat Rizzuto  

Nov. 7 --The U.S. on Nov. 6 signed the Minamata Convention on Mercury, paving the way for the nation to become a party to the international agreement to reduce airborne emissions from power plants and other sources of mercury.

The U.S. was scheduled to sign the Minamata Convention on Oct. 10 at the Conference of Plenipotentiaries in Kumamoto Prefecture, Japan, but U.S. participation in that meeting was canceled because it took place during the government shutdown, the State Department said in an announcement of the signing.

China, Germany and Japan are among more than 90 nations that signed the United Nations treaty at that October meeting.

Implementation Under Existing Authority

Some environmental treaties require revisions to U.S. laws before they can be ratified.

Regarding the Minamata Convention, however, the State Department said, “The United States has already taken significant steps to reduce the amount of mercury we generate and release to the environment, and can implement convention obligations under existing legislative and regulatory authority.”

The Senate's consent to ratification is still required.

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del), chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works' Subcommittee on Clean Air, issued a statement Nov. 6 praising the U.S. decision to join the Minamata Convention on Mercury.

Devastating Health Effects

“Mercury pollution can lead to devastating adverse health effects, including kidney failure and neurological damage. Pregnant mothers and their unborn children are most at risk because developing brains are the most vulnerable to mercury's harmful impacts,” Carper said in the statement e-mailed to reporters.

“Fighting mercury pollution is not only a local problem, but a global problem--and that's why it is so important we join the international community to help all of us reduce mercury pollution,” Carper said.

The convention will enter into effect after 50 countries have ratified or otherwise agreed to be bound by its obligations, the Environmental Protection Agency said in a website about the treaty.

Delegates from more than 140 countries adopted the convention in January .


To contact the reporter on this story: Pat Rizzuto in Washington prizzuto@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at lpearl@bna.com

The State Department's announcement is available at http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2013/11/217295.htm.