EPA Looks to Strengthen Critical Public Health Protections Against Mercury, Other Toxic Pollutants from Power Plants

Published Apr 5, 2023

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Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a proposed rulemaking related to strengthening the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS), a foundational rule protecting people from mercury and other hazardous air pollutants released by coal- and oil-fired power plants. To date, MATS has delivered enormous gains for public health, dramatically reducing emissions of mercury and other air toxics. Still, hazardous air pollution from these power plants remains a public health concern and EPA is right to revisit these standards, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

Below is a statement by Julie McNamara, the deputy policy director of the Climate and Energy Program at UCS.

“We welcome EPA’s proposed rulemaking to update MATS and encourage the rigorous, comprehensive evaluation of the ongoing risks and harms of toxic pollution from coal- and oil-fired power plants, and the readily available tools for addressing them.

“Despite years of industry protestations, MATS yielded rapid and dramatic reductions of mercury pollution and other air toxics from coal-fired power plants when it finally entered into full effect in 2016. These pollution reductions have saved lives that would have otherwise been cut short and improved lives that would have otherwise been permanently harmed—including harm to babies even before birth. But for all the good that MATS has brought, we must also reckon with the fact that all these towering benefits could and should have happened sooner, and lives were harmed in the time between.

“EPA cannot repeat that same delay today. While MATS has driven enormous benefits to date, the fact remains that coal- and oil-fired power plants still release pollution that hurts people and the environment, and it is incumbent on EPA to act.

“We have the resources to power our economy in a clean and cost-effective way while protecting people’s health and the environment; we should not accept anything less.”