The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is working to undermine the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, which prevent coal plants from polluting our air and waters. Mercury is a toxic heavy metal emitted by coal-burning power plants. Mercury can interfere with brain development, lower IQ, and cause learning and behavioral problems. Children are especially vulnerable to the health effects of mercury, and pregnant women can pass mercury through their placentas into the brains of their babies.
Because many American Indians rely on locally-caught fish for their daily sustenance, mercury pollution disproportionately harms Indian health. Mercury contamination also threatens traditional Indian lifeways, including longstanding traditions of fishing and fish consumption that are central to many tribes’ cultural identity. For many tribes, fishing and fish consumption are critical social practices, handed down from generation to generation.
Yet despite the disproportionate harm that mercury pollution has on tribal communities, Trump’s EPA has neglected to consult with Native Americans about the attack on the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, claiming that the proposal “does not have tribal implications” and “would neither impose substantial direct compliance costs on tribal governments, nor preempt Tribal law.”
We disagree. By neglecting tribal consultation on this issue, Trump’s EPA is engaging in a reckless and disrespectful rulemaking process. This only adds to the conclusion that this administration is turning a deaf ear to stakeholders. A broad and diverse coalition of stakeholders oppose EPA’s mercury proposal due to its potential to harm babies and children. Medical experts, faith leaders, parents, dozens of bipartisan lawmakers, and even the regulated industry itself have asked EPA to withdraw the proposal. Many tribal voices are also opposed, and it is past time for Trump’s EPA, Congress, and the American public to hear their perspective.
That’s why we are launching a series of interviews with Native American women about the importance of clean air and water to them, their children, and their communities — and why they oppose any effort to undermine the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards.