Quantcast

EPA Bows to Coal Industry, Moves to Weaken Mercury & Air Toxics Standards

Politics
Coal-fired power plant in West Virginia. Harrison Shull / Aurora / Getty Images

In its latest attack on clean air protections, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its new proposal to weaken the Obama-era Mercury & Air Toxics Standards (MATS), putting public health at risk from more than 80 dangerous pollutants, some of which are known to cause brain damage in children.

"This is an unconscionable rollback to serve the coal industry at the expense of all Americans, especially our children," said John Walke, director of NRDC's Clean Air program. "And it says EPA's just fine with allowing brain poisons mercury and lead and toxic carcinogens to fill our skies."


The standards were the first national limits on air pollution from coal-fired power plants that release toxins like mercury, arsenic, lead and acid gases into the air. Among those, mercury is especially toxic, especially for pregnant women and their babies. The stakes are high: Each year, the standards prevent up to 11,000 premature deaths, 13,000 asthma attacks and nearly 5,000 heart attacks. In fact, MATS delivers up to $90 billion in health benefits.

Nearly everyone supports the standards—including utilities that have already invested $18 billion for pollution-control equipment and are complying with the rules at nearly every coal- and oil-burning power plant in the country. Even Congress is showing bipartisan opposition to a rollback. The standards' few opponents include coal and industry executives. In particular, coal tycoon Bob Murray, the head of Murray Energy, has long been pushing for a rollback—going so far as to include it in a wish list to the Trump administration soon after inauguration. Murray has financial ties to the Trump campaign and is a former client of the EPA's acting head Andrew Wheeler.

The reversal of MATS follows other rollbacks by the agency that will harm public health and undo Obama-era climate action—like the decision to undo fuel efficiency standards and the gutting of the Clean Power Plan. MATS is no less significant: At the time of its passing, Walke called the EPA's move the "most important actions to clean up air pollution from dirty coal-burning power plants since the Clean Air Act was last updated in 1990."

"[This rollback] is absurd, it's dangerous, and we'll fight to stop this rollback with every available tool," Walke said.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Large food companies are following in the footsteps of fast-food restaurants such as Burger King and KFC by offering meat alternatives. Getty Images

By Elizabeth Pratt

  • Hormel, Kellogg's, and Kroger are among the large companies now planning to offer "fake meat" products at grocery stores.
  • Experts say the trend toward plant-based meats coincides with consumers' desires to eat less meat.
  • However, experts urge consumers to closely check package labels as a product isn't necessarily healthy just because it's described as plant-based.

In grocery stores and fast-food outlets around the U.S., a revolution is taking place.

Read More Show Less
Colombia rainforest. Marcel Oosterwijk / CC BY-SA 2.0

By Torsten Krause

Many of us think of the Amazon as an untouched wilderness, but people have been thriving in these diverse environments for millennia. Due to this long history, the knowledge that Indigenous and forest communities pass between generations about plants, animals and forest ecology is incredibly rich and detailed and easily dwarfs that of any expert.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
picture-alliance / Newscom / R. Ben Ari

By Wesley Rahn

Plastic byproducts were found in 97 percent of blood and urine samples from 2,500 children tested between 2014 and 2017, according to a study by the German Environment Ministry and the Robert Koch Institute.

Read More Show Less
Pexels

Medically reviewed by Daniel Bubnis, MS, NASM-CPT, NASE Level II-CSS

Written by James Roland

Hot yoga has become a popular exercise in recent years. It offers many of the same benefits as traditional yoga, such as stress reduction, improved strength, and flexibility.

Read More Show Less
Lara Hata / iStock / Getty Images

By SaVanna Shoemaker, MS, RDN, LD

Rice is a staple in many people's diets. It's filling, inexpensive, and a great mild-tasting addition to flavorful dishes.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Hinterhaus Productions / DigitalVision / Getty Images

By Lindsay Campbell

From pastries to plant-based—we've got you covered.

Read More Show Less
An image of the trans-alaskan oil pipeline that carries oil from the northern part of Alaska all the way to valdez. This shot is right near the arctic national wildlife refuge. kyletperry / iStock / Getty Images Plus

The Trump administration has initialized the final steps to open up nearly 1.6 million acres of the protected Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge to allow oil and gas drilling.

Read More Show Less
Westend61 / Getty Images

By Elizabeth Streit, MS, RDN, LD

Vegetarianism has become increasingly popular in recent years.

Read More Show Less