The EPA Rule Change That Could Kill Thousands


While Americans were quietly preparing to ring in the New Year, the EPA gave families a deadly present to start the year off wrong.

On December 28, the Environmental Protection Agency announced a proposal that would effectively weaken the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS), which protect American families from mercury and other harmful air pollutants emitted by power plants.

The EPA “proposes to determine that it is not ‘appropriate and necessary’ to regulate” these emissions, the EPA wrote in a statement. This means that the regulations will lose the necessary legal mechanism that actually enables them to actually be enforced.

These regulations save a lot of lives — 11,000 every year, according to the EPA’s own data — and they prevent 130,000 asthma attacks annually. Stripping this regulatory power virtually guarantees more asthma attacks and more preventable deaths.

For families, those aren’t just numbers.

At any age, exposure to even small amounts of mercury can lead to serious health problems. The worst health impacts include irreparable brain development defects in babies and young children, and cancer, heart disease, lung disease, and premature death among people of all ages.

Infants, young children, and pregnant mothers are particularly vulnerable to mercury — as well as to arsenic, lead, dioxin, and acid gases, which are also regulated by MATS.

Before MATS, coal-fired power plants were the largest source of these pollutants. American families paid the price for lack of federal regulations.

I’m a fairly young person — I grew up with dire warnings about exposure to these chemicals. Yet despite overwhelming evidence of their health effects — and the longstanding availability of proven control technologies — it took over 20 years after the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments to establish federal regulations on power plant emissions of these harmful substances.

Through the MATS program, Congress identified approximately 180 hazardous air pollutants, including mercury, and directed the EPA to draft regulations governing their emissions from power plants.

The impact has been enormous. A significant majority of top power companies have already complied with MATS, for a fraction of the originally estimated cost. It’s estimated that over 5,000 emergency and hospital visits and 4,700 heart attacks have been prevented each year as a direct result of these vital regulations.

In fact, one of the EPA’s own resources on the program highlights its widespread benefits: “The benefits of MATS are widely distributed and are especially important to minority and low income populations who are disproportionately impacted by asthma and other debilitating health conditions,” it notes.

Undoing critical health and safety standards and putting more Americans in danger goes against the very purpose of the EPA. Even utility companies, who invested in complying with the standards, are calling for the EPA to keep MATS fully intact.

Younger generations deserve to grow up protected from these harmful and deadly substances. The EPA wants to make mercury and air toxics deadlier again. We can’t let that happen.

Olivia Alperstein is the Media Relations Manager for Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR).

 

 

Please Help ZNet and Z Magazine

Due to problems with our programming that we have only now finally been able to fix, it has been over a year since our last fund raising. As a result, we need your help more than ever to continue to bring the alternative information you have been looking for for 30 years.

Z offers the most useful societal news we can, but in judging what is useful, unlike many other sources we emphasize vision, strategy, and activist relevance. When we address Trump, for example, it is to find ways beyond Trump, not to merely repeat, over and over, how terrible he is. And the same is true for our addressing global warming, poverty, inequality, racism, sexism, and war making. Our priority is always that what we provide has potential for aiding determining what to do, and how best to do it.

In fixing our programming problems, we have updated our system to make becoming a sustainer and giving donations easier. It has been a long process but we are hopeful it will make it more convenient for everyone to help us grow. If you have any trouble, please let us know right away. We need input on any problems to make sure the system can continue to be easy to use for everyone.

The best way to help, however, is to become a monthly or annual sustainer. Sustainers can comment, post blogs, and receive a nightly commentary by direct email.

Become a Sustainer here.

You can also or alternatively make a one-time donation or get a print subscription to Z Magazine.

Make a one time Donation here.

Subscribe to Z Magazine here.

Any aid will help greatly. And please email any suggestions for improvements, comments, or problems right away.

Thank you,
Michael Albert
Lydia Sargent
Eric Sargent

Leave a comment