(Washington, D.C. – October 8, 2018) The Trump administration is undermining America’s protections against mercury and other poisonous and cancer-causing substances from the nation’s fleet of coal plants.
This weekend the White House Office of Management and Budget officially confirmed it is reviewing a proposal to reconsider the legal underpinnings of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards – protections that are now in effect and reducing mercury, which causes brain damage in babies, as well as arsenic, lead, acid gases, and other dangerous air pollution.
“The Mercury and Air Toxics Standards are among the most important protections we have to keep our children safe, and the Trump administration is attacking their foundation. It’s a new low from an administration whose record is already a series of environmental lows. Mercury causes brain damage in children, and there is no justifiable reason why the administration should allow more of it into our air,” said EDF president Fred Krupp. “The steps the administration is taking will allow it to eviscerate the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, and our children will pay the price. EDF will fight to keep these critical protections in place.”
Power plants were the leading source of many toxic pollutants, including mercury and arsenic, before the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards went into effect. The standards help ensure 90 percent of the mercury in coal burned in power plants is not released into our air.
EPA estimates the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards save up to 11,000 lives each year, as well as preventing thousands of heart attacks, asthma attacks, and hospital visits. The economic benefits of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards are as high as $90 billion each year, outweighing the costs by up to a margin of 9-to-1.
This announcement about the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards marks the sixth time in two months that the Trump administration attacked America’s seminal environmental protections. It follows proposed rollbacks of the Clean Car Standards, the Clean Power Plan, and EPA’s standards for pollution from oil and gas drilling; a final determination to rollback BLM’s standards to prevent the waste of natural gas on public and tribal lands; and the denial of petitions from Maryland and Delaware asking for help with smog caused by pollution from upwind states.
In the last few months, everyone – from power company representatives including the Edison Electric Institute, America Public Power Association and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, to labor leaders, and Members of Congress from both parties – have asked the Trump administration to leave the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards in place. Rolling them back will benefit no one except perhaps a few coal barons.
Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler was a lobbyist for coal baron Bob Murray before being appointed to head EPA, and Murray has identified eliminating our protections against mercury pollution as a top priority of his.
You can read more about the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards on EDF’s website.
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Environmental Defense Fund (edf.org), a leading international nonprofit organization, creates transformational solutions to the most serious environmental problems. EDF links science, economics, law and innovative private-sector partnerships. Connect with us on EDF Voices, Twitter and Facebook.