EDF Testifies for Life-Saving Mercury and Air Toxics Standards

Urges EPA to Withdraw Misguided Proposal to Reconsider Vital Protections

March 18, 2019
Sharyn Stein, 202-572-3396, sstein@edf.org

(Washington, D.C. – March 18, 2019) Experts with Environmental Defense Fund joined Americans from across the country today in support of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards – the popular, successful, and cost-effective safeguards against some of the most dangerous types of air pollution from power plants.

Then-acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler proposed reconsidering the foundational building blocks of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards in December. EPA is holding its one and only public hearing on the proposed rollback today at its Washington, D.C. headquarters.

“Let’s be clear, the EPA is taking comment on whether the agency should rescind the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards – standards which annually reduce toxic air pollutants including mercury, lead, arsenic, and acid gases, and which are vital to keeping these poisons out of the air we breathe and the food we eat,” said EDF senior policy manager Mandy Warner in her testimony. “Toxic air pollutants emitted by power plants can damage the brains and nervous systems of developing fetuses, harm reproductive systems, and can cause cardiovascular harms, respiratory impacts, and cancer.”

The Mercury and Air Toxics Standards are already in effect and protecting Americans. The power industry is already in compliance with the standards, and since 2011 mercury pollution from power plants has dropped by more than 80 percent.

EPA’s own estimates show the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards prevent up to 11,000 premature deaths each year, and the benefits outweigh the costs by a margin of 9-to-1.

“My oldest daughter will turn seven years old this year, the same age I was when Congress started the process to accelerate mercury and toxic air pollution protections via the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments. It has literally taken generations to get these standards implemented, and yet today we are facing an action by EPA that could upend the progress we have made,” said Warner in her testimony.

EDF’s Simon Bunyan also testified today.

“It should be noted that the power industry itself opposes the revisions to the mercury standards. In a letter to the EPA, associations representing the industry urged the agency to ‘leave the underlying MATS rule in place and effective,’” said Bunyan in his testimony. “The [proposed rollback] will only serve to increase the toxic pollution that threatens our air, land, water, food, and wildlife.”

EDF also joined 30 other health, business, environmental and social justice groups to submit a letter to EPA today saying:

“There is no defensible reason to continue to pursue this proposal to upend one of the most cost-effective and widely supported public health protections and we urge you to immediately withdraw it.”

You can read the entire letter here.

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