Undermining the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards a “Terrible Idea” – EDF

Statement of EDF President Fred Krupp

April 16, 2020
Sharyn Stein, 202-905-5718, sstein@edf.org

“Under Administrator Andrew Wheeler, EPA is expected to finalize a decision today that would undermine the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards for coal-fired power plants. That decision, if it stands, means Americans will have more deadly pollution in our air and water. Weakening these effective, affordable standards is a terrible idea.

“With today’s expected announcement, Wheeler will have taken five steps in six weeks that would mean more human suffering and leave Americans in more danger from air pollution: restricting the agency’s use of health science; giving polluters wide latitude to evade our environmental laws; unraveling our Clean Car Standards; refusing to strengthen our health protections against soot; and now this effort to undermine our protections limiting the most toxic contaminants in the air we breathe. Wheeler has done all this while the rest of America has been fighting a pandemic that causes deadly respiratory problems. The potential damage is – literally – breathtaking.

“Wheeler’s plan for the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards would allow U.S. power plants to emit more mercury and lead each year, both of which get into our air, water and food and cause brain damage in babies and young children. It would allow more arsenic and acid gases. EPA’s own analysis shows the existing safeguards against these pollutants save up to 11,000 lives and prevent thousands of illnesses each year.

“Since Mr. Wheeler first proposed his plan, it has been opposed by almost every part of American society. The power sector is already meeting the standards he wants to roll back, having long ago made investments and planning decisions in light of them. Power sector leaders, labor leaders, the Chamber of Commerce, Members of Congress from both parties, health experts and many other Americans have all asked the administration to leave the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards alone. Mr. Wheeler, however, ignored them all and insisted on this giant leap in the wrong direction.

“The Mercury and Air Toxics standards are a resounding success. They have already reduced mercury pollution from coal plants by more than 80 percent since they were finalized in 2012. Thanks to these vital clean air protections, we all have less poison in the air we breathe and the food we eat. The Wheeler plan would undermine these critical life-saving pollution reductions. EDF will take legal action to strenuously defend the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards for all Americans.

- Fred Krupp, president of Environmental Defense Fund

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