Iowa Governor Sets End Date for Mercury Thermostat Regulation
In May, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds signed into law an omnibus appropriations bill with a provision establishing a “sunset date” that will end the statewide legal mandate to collect and recycle mercury-switch thermostats on Jan. 1, 2022.
This repeal directly affects the entire spectrum of businesses that are part of the thermostat industry, including manufacturers, wholesalers, contractors and retailers.
As of Jan. 1, 2022, Thermostat Recycling Corporation (TRC) and other industry businesses and associations in Iowa will face fewer legal requirements regarding the recovery of mercury thermostats. TRC will maintain its collection network beyond that date, but the removal of the sunset provision will enable the program to focus more on capturing the remaining mercury thermostats in service, and less on state-monitored, administrative functions.
Setting a sunset date in Iowa is sensible in that it recognizes that TRC and its industry partners have made impressive, measurable progress over the past 21 years to recycle mercury-switch thermostats, collecting more than 45,000 thermostats in the state. Indeed, the passage of this bill is de facto recognition that TRC and its collection partners have accomplished what they committed to decades ago. TRC has adhered to all state and federal provisions as it conducted its program in Iowa, and this action acknowledges that TRC delivered what was promised.
Thirteen other states have thermostat recycling laws, several of which also specify “end dates” for the program. Those without a sunset provision embody an unrealistic expectation that the number of mercury-switch thermostats will remain perpetually constant, even though the sales of mercury-switch thermostats ended in the U.S. more than a decade ago and non-mercury alternatives became popular well before that. Therefore, a formal, statutory collection mandate eventually becomes an exercise in futility, absorbing resources that TRC could be using far more productively elsewhere.
TRC will continue its recycling activities in Iowa until it achieves “mission accomplished.” However, Gov. Reynolds’ action is significant. Sunsetting the legal mandate will reduce the regulatory burden on the program without compromising the environmental benefits it provides to Iowa residents.
Danielle Myers is TRC’s operations & compliance manager. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.