The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
EPA Bows to Coal Industry, Moves to Weaken Mercury & Air Toxics Standards
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
The world awakened to the hole in the ozone layer in 1985, which scientists attributed it to ozone depleting substances. Two years later, in Montreal, the world agreed to ban the halogen compounds causing the massive hole over Antarctica. Research now shows that those chemicals didn't just cut a hole in the ozone layer, they also warmed up the Arctic.
Formosa Plant May Still Be Releasing Plastic Pollution in Texas After $50M Settlement, Activists Find
On the afternoon of Jan. 15, activist Diane Wilson kicked off a San Antonio Estuary Waterkeeper meeting on the side of the road across from a Formosa plastics manufacturing plant in Point Comfort, Texas.
After Wilson and the waterkeeper successfully sued Formosa in 2017, the company agreed to no longer release even one of the tiny plastic pellets known as nurdles into the region's waterways. The group of volunteers had assembled that day to check whether the plant was still discharging these raw materials of plastics manufacturing.
Malaysia Sends Plastic Waste Back to 13 Wealthy Countries, Says It Won’t Be 'the Rubbish Dump of the World'
The Southeast Asian country Malaysia has sent 150 shipping containers packed with plastic waste back to 13 wealthy countries, putting the world on notice that it will not be the world's garbage dump, as CNN reported. The countries receiving their trash back include the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Canada.