Office of the Vermont Attorney General

Attorney General T.J. Donovan Continues Challenge To Federal Exemptions Of Mercury Products

December 14, 2018

Contact:   Justin E. Kolber, Assistant Attorney General, (802) 828-3171

Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan announced that the State of Vermont recently filed its brief to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals continuing its challenge of a decision by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to exempt several large categories of mercury products from “inventory reporting.” Inventory reporting is the practice of an entity reporting to the EPA a complete inventory of all mercury and mercury-containing products in its possession and put in commerce. Mercury exposures at high levels can harm the brain, heart, kidneys, lungs and immune systems of people of all ages, and mercury in the bloodstream of developing babies and young children may harm their nervous systems and ability to think and learn.

Earlier this year, the EPA issued its final rule (the so-called “mercury rule”) on the reporting requirements for mercury products under federal law. The law requires a complete and accurate inventory of mercury supply, use, and trade in the United States. The EPA’s mercury rule will exempt any product that contains a mercury-added product as a component of the larger product. Examples of products containing a mercury-added product include a mercury battery in a watch or toy, or a mercury switch or relay in a lamp or pump. Many of these products are imported and are not manufactured in the U.S. Under the mercury rule, manufacturers of these mercury-added products will not have to report important information on the uses and amount or quantity of mercury contained inside.

“Eliminating reporting requirements for some of the largest uses of mercury places Vermonters at risk,” said Attorney General Donovan. “Vermonters deserve to know what is inside the products we use. Our state can proudly say it has been a leader in mercury regulation for decades. Now, Vermont will continue to lead and will continue to fight against the step backwards proposed by the EPA and the new mercury rule.”

The Vermont Agency of Natural Resources’ Secretary Julie Moore said, “The Agency of Natural Resources strongly supports the efforts of the Vermont Attorney General’s Office in their challenge of EPA’s mercury rule. Mercury is one of the most toxic pollutants, and we should not be weakening the mercury reporting requirements. Without fully understanding how and where mercury is being used, ANR’s core work of protecting Vermonters and Vermont’s environment is unnecessarily made much more difficult.”

The Vermont Attorney General’s Office has been working closely with the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources and the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation’s Mercury Education and Reduction Campaign throughout this litigation.

In its brief, Vermont argues that the mercury rule’s exemptions could impede Vermont from enforcing laws enacted to prevent mercury contamination. For example, Vermont and a handful of other states have outright bans for certain products with mercury-added components. These laws help eliminate non-essential uses of mercury in consumer, household, and commercial products, and reduce mercury releases to the environment through production, use, and disposal of such products. Under the EPA’s mercury rule, some mercury-added products might now be allowed to enter Vermont unreported, unlabeled, and undetected, potentially frustrating Vermont’s ability to enforce its own laws.

The EPA will now have the opportunity to reply to Vermont’s brief.  The EPA’s reply brief is expected to be filed in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals on or before March 7, 2019.

For more information on mercury and Vermont’s mercury-added product manufacturer requirements, including labeling, please visit the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation’s Mercury Education and Reduction Campaign website:  https://anrweb.vt.gov/DEC/mercury/merc.htm

Last modified: December 14, 2018