NRCM news release
April 16, 2019 (Augusta, ME) – With final action today, the Maine Legislature has unanimously passed a bipartisan resolution calling on the President to direct the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to drop its planned rollbacks of mercury pollution protections. EPA has proposed scaling back the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS), which in 2011 placed the first-ever national limits on the amount of mercury and other toxins that coal- and oil-burning power plants can emit into the air.
“We commend Maine lawmakers for taking this strong stand against the EPA’s misguided proposal to weaken protections for human health from the mercury pollution released by fossil fuel power plants,” said Emmie Theberge, Federal Project Director at the Natural Resources Council of Maine. “These safeguards have been proven to save lives and lead to cleaner air and water, which is why we’re grateful to the Maine Legislature and our Congressional delegation for acting to protect the health of Maine’s people and wildlife by opposing this harmful rollback.”
Maine’s lands and waters face higher-than-average rates of mercury pollution because winds carry the pollution from coal plants in the Midwest into Maine. The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention has warned Mainers—especially pregnant woman, nursing mothers, and kids under eight—to avoid eating freshwater fish caught in the state’s thousands of lakes and ponds because of mercury contamination. Mercury levels in Maine fish, loons, and eagles are among the highest in the country.
Coal-fired power plants were the largest source of toxic mercury pollution before the standards went into effect in 2011. Since then, power plants have reduced their mercury emissions by nearly 82% nationwide, according to the Center for American Progress. The power industry has already invested more than $18 billion to reduce these deadly pollutants and are meeting the standards set by EPA, which helps explain why Maine’s policymakers are so concerned about this proposed rollback.
Maine’s Congressional delegation has consistently supported the mercury pollution standards, and Maine Senator Susan Collins has been a leader on legislation to address the problem of mercury pollution, acknowledging that this is one of the most persistent and dangerous pollutants that threatens our health and environment. Senator Collins signed a bipartisan letter urging the EPA to drop the proposed MATS rollback, co-sponsored bipartisan legislation for mercury pollution monitoring, spoke on the Senate floor in opposition to the MATS rollback, and cited the MATS rollback as one of the reasons for opposing EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler’s confirmation.
The comment period for the EPA’s proposed rollback ends Wednesday, April 17, 2019. The resolution enacted today by the Maine Legislature will become part of the public record in opposition to the proposal.