Trump Administration Targets Mercury Standards Next in Its Attack on Health and Environmental Protections

August 30, 2018
Sharyn Stein, 202-572-3306,

(Washington, D.C. – August 29, 2018) The Trump Administration continued its efforts to unravel America’s public health and environmental protections today when news reports confirmed its planned attack on the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards.

The Mercury and Air Toxics Standards have been a proven success in protecting American families from some of the most dangerous types of air pollution – including mercury, which causes brain damage in babies; arsenic; lead; chromium and nickel, which cause cancer; and acid gases, which cause serious lung disease. Everyone from industry leaders to Members of Congress, from both parties, have asked the Trump administration to leave them in place, but the administration is reportedly trying to destroy them anyway.

“Of all the wantonly destructive things the Trump Administration has done to our environmental protections, this could turn out to be the worst,” said Mandy Warner, EDF’s Senior Manager of Climate and Air Policy. “The Mercury and Air Toxics Standards are already in place protecting our families from deadly pollution. Power plants have already installed cost-effective pollution controls. But the Trump administration is considering gutting these established and successful protections, for no particular reason, and putting the lives and health of babies at risk.”

EPA confirmed to two news agencies today that it will begin consideration of whether the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards are “appropriate and necessary.” The standards, which were finalized in 2012, set the first-ever national limits on hazardous air pollutants from coal-fired power plants, which used to be the single largest source of such pollution in the U.S.

The Mercury and Air Toxics Standards ensure 90 percent of the mercury in coal burned in power plants is not released into our air.

Hundreds of thousands of American newborns still face the risk of learning disabilities due to prenatal exposure to mercury, and pregnant women are still routinely warned not to eat certain kinds of fish because of the high levels of mercury in our waters, but we are starting to see progress. According to a recent study, mercury levels in Atlantic Bluefin tuna are now rapidly declining due to a shift away from coal.

EPA estimates the standards save up to 11,000 lives each year and prevent thousands of heart attacks, asthma and bronchitis attacks, hospital and emergency room visits.

Since the standards were adopted, power companies across the nation have significantly reduced their toxic emissions at a fraction of the expected cost. Virtually all power plants in the nation now meet the standards. The economic benefits of the standards are as high as $90 billion annually, outweighing the costs by up to a margin of 9 to 1.

In July, a group of industry leaders – including the Edison Electric Institute, the American Public Power Association, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, and the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Iron Ship Builders, Blacksmiths, Forgers and Helpers – sent a letter asking EPA to leave the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards “in place and effective.”

The Mercury and Air Toxics Standards also have bipartisan Congressional support. Just last week, Senators Tom Carper (D-DE) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN) sent a letter to EPA asking the agency not to change the standards.

The Trump administration is still trying to undermine them, for reasons of its own.

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