EPA plan would allow more toxics in the air and water

There are just two weeks left to support one of the nation’s most successful air-pollution protections from a scheduled gutting under a Trump administration plan to let coal-burning plants potentially release more toxics into the sky.

The Environmental Protection Agency is attacking the foundation of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards as too costly to industry without enough health benefit, even though the EPA under the Obama administration came up with the opposite assessment. Records also show the cost of compliance is lower than first projected, but the EPA is still relying on outdated and inflated estimates.

Mercury in particular is a neurotoxin that damages brain development in children and fetuses. EPA records show the Mercury and Air Toxics rule has reduced the amount of hazardous air pollution by 96 percent.

The EPA is taking input from the public on this proposed rollback through April 17. You can click here to submit a comment.

“I don’t know of any reasonable person who would say, ‘Let’s put some more toxic pollutants in the air,’” said Deborah Murray, an SELC senior attorney who is leading the group’s opposition to the EPA proposal. “Mercury is a well-known hazard to children and pregnant women, and it just beggars belief that anyone thinks it’s acceptable to allow more of it into the air and water.”

Before the rule – known as MATS for short – was put in place in 2012, there were no national standards for mercury emissions.

Without these standards, coal-burning plants emit high levels of mercury and other toxics. Mercury spreads through the air and settles into water, where it contaminates fish. In many areas, pregnant women are discouraged from eating fish because of mercury contamination.

“What’s really perplexing is that industry has already complied with the rule, and has already made huge strides in reducing mercury from plant emissions,” Murray said. “It makes no sense to undo that progress.”

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