Statement of Emmie Theberge, Federal Program Director, Natural Resources Council of Maine
“The Trump Administration has taken the first step to dramatically roll back the 2011 Mercury and Air Toxic Standards, federal protections that limit toxic mercury pollution from coal-fired power plants nationwide. In its announcement he EPA says ‘that it is not appropriate and necessary to regulate HAP [hazardous air pollution] emissions from coal- and oil-fired power plants.’”
“The Trump Administration’s rollback of limits on toxic mercury is reckless and dangerous. The proposed change largely ignores the dangers mercury pollution poses to the health of people and wildlife, and is a prime example of how the Administration values profits for polluting industries over the health of Americans. It is outrageous that former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler is leading the effort to roll back mercury pollution limits as the acting head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
“Mainers have nothing to gain and everything to lose with this rollback. Mercury pollution heads to Maine on prevailing winds from upwind coal plants. That’s why we face higher-than-average rates of mercury contamination. The Maine CDC has warned Mainers—especially pregnant women, nursing mothers, and kids under eight – to avoid eating freshwater fish caught in our thousands of lakes and ponds. And Maine loons have the highest levels of mercury contamination in the U.S.
“Mercury exposure is particularly damaging to the developing brains of infants and children, and causes severe health problems such as cardiovascular disease and neurological damage. Coal-fired power plants are the biggest source of airborne mercury, accounting for nearly 70 percent of the mercury American people and wildlife are exposed to everyday.
“Our Mercury and Air Toxics Standards have been very effective. Since the standards went into effect in 2011, power plants have reduced their mercury emissions by nearly 82 percent nationwide, according to the Center for American Progress. Even the power industry is opposed to rolling back the mercury pollution protections. The industry has already invested more than $18 billion to reduce these deadly pollutants and is already meeting the standards.
“Maine’s US. Senator Susan Collins has been a leader to address the problem of mercury pollution, acknowledging that it is one of the most persistent and dangerous pollutants that threatens our health and environment, and recently introduced bipartisan legislation with Senator Carper (D-DE) to better track mercury pollution. We thank her for these efforts.
“We urge the EPA to keep our mercury standards in place. We urge Maine’s elected officials at all levels to oppose this harmful rollback proposal, and stand up to protect the health of Maine people.”
Background: In 2011, the Environmental Protection Agency finalized the first federal limits on mercury pollution from coal-fired power plants, known as the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS). These rules set limits to prevent 90 percent of the mercury in coal burned in power plants from being emitted into the air. This proposal from the Trump Administration is the first step from the EPA to dismantle this rule, and will require public comment before moving forward.