MACON - Georgia's Board of Natural Resources is scheduled to vote on adopting strict mercury guidelines in June in an effort to restrict the amount of the toxic metal that power plants can release in the air.
The proposed rules are stricter than those issued by the Environmental Protection Agency, which have been criticized as too lenient by neighboring states and environmental groups.
Mercury released by power plants pollutes waterways and can accumulate in fish, posing a danger to people who eat them.
The state Environmental Protection Division says more than 20,000 children are born in Georgia each year with dangerously high levels of mercury in their blood, which can cause developmental problems.
The proposed guidelines set a timetable for adding pollution controls at power plants around the state and require all new plants to install the best mercury controls possible by 2015, said Heather Abrams, the state air branch chief.
While some environmental groups say Georgia isn't going far enough, others support the proposed guidelines.
"It will result in more mercury emissions reduction than the federal rule, and that alone is a victory," said Julie Mayfield of the Georgia Conservancy.
Georgia Power, the primary power company operating in the state, fought to have the state mirror federal rules. Its Plant Scherer in Monroe County is responsible for about 40 percent of Georgia's mercury emissions, according to environmental agency records. Under the proposed rules, it would have to install mercury control technology on all four of its units by 2010.
The state's environmental division expects that the equipment will reduce 85 percent to 90 percent of the mercury released in the state by 2018.