The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is expected to finalize its plans to undermine its Mercury and Air Toxics Standards regulations, which protect people across the country from dangerous mercury and other toxic pollutants emitted from power plant smokestacks. These toxins cause brain damage, nerve damage, and damage to fetal development. For decades, air emissions from power plants polluted our nation’s lakes and streams with mercury, poisoning fish and the people and animals that rely on them for food. The regulations have been incredibly successful; since they were finalized in 2012, there has been a dramatic decrease in mercury levels in our waterways and fish.
According to EPA’s own data, the value of the air quality improvements for human health, thanks to these standards, totals $37 billion to $90 billion each year. That means that for every dollar spent to reduce this pollution, Americans receive $3-9 in health benefits. At a time when the COVID-19 pandemic threatens the lives and respiratory health of people worldwide, scrapping these standards will increase the dangerous mercury, soot, and other toxic pollutants released from coal- and oil-burning power plants.
Statement from Larissa Liebmann, staff attorney for Waterkeeper Alliance:
These standards, which Waterkeeper Alliance fought for, resulted in cleaner air. And that cleaner air saved lives. According to the EPA’s own data, removing mercury and toxins from our air, thanks to this standard, resulted in 4,700 fewer heart attacks and 130,000 fewer asthma attacks — every single year since 2011. At the same time, levels of mercury in waterways and fish have already begun to decrease. Even most power companies support these standards. That the EPA is willing to put the whims of a handful of coal companies ahead of the lives of Americans is unconscionable. This rollback will kill people.