How dare they. Trump’s EPA — under the leadership of acting head, Andrew Wheeler — has hit its lowest, most cynical level in its radical agenda to destroy protections against pollution. And that’s saying a lot, given that every single week, EPA lobs over a shocking new rollback.
EPA has launched a process to sabotage and ultimately destroy our Mercury and Air Toxics Standards. These are protections that keep a terrible poison from harming our babies’ brains. This is a terrifying development because of what it means for our health. EPA has hit Moms Clean Air Force’s “third rail”—the most dangerous of all. And it is also terrifying because it shows that Trump’s EPA will stop at nothing to protect polluter profits.
Eight years ago, Moms started out fiercely joining a fight that had been going on for decades — to secure commonsense protections against air pollution that harms our babies. Eight years ago, I was writing to our small membership about something I had never understood before, something that stunned me.
Many mothers remember being told, when we were pregnant, not to eat large fatty fish like tuna — because it contained toxic levels of mercury. What I never knew was that the mercury in our fish comes from air pollution! Mercury rains down from coal smokestacks, enters the water, and as it is ingested by fish, it works its way up into larger fish. Mercury lodges in fatty tissue, and the levels rise — it bioaccumulates — as larger fish eat smaller fish.
When pregnant women eat mercury-laced fish, that toxin crosses the placental barrier, and enters the fetus, where the only significant fat is in the brain. Mercury destroys the developing architecture of the fetal brain.
Who in their right mind would want to allow more mercury into our air? Who in their right mind would dare to make it easier to harm babies’ brains?
Coal plants all over the country have put scrubbers on their stacks to stop the release of mercury and heavy metals. Plants that were too rackety and old to invest in have been shut down. Dismantling the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards means that plants could turn off their scrubbers to save a few dollars—and the oldest, most polluting plants could start up again.
This is an enormous gift to the coal industry. EPA is allowing coal barons — starting with Bob Murray, of Murray Energy, a major Trump donor — to run EPA. Is it any coincidence that the acting head of EPA, Andrew Wheeler, was a long time coal lobbyist who worked with Murray?
Along with mercury, coal plants spew arsenic and acid gases. Yes: They are all as bad as they sound. Moms Clean Air Force and our partners won protections from these air toxics in 2011. During the battle we were joined by mothers in the evangelical community, fighting to protect the brains of unborn babies, and mothers in the environmental justice community, who are disproportionately harmed by coal pollution. We must all join hands again.
EPA has decided that it is not “appropriate and necessary” — that’s their legal term of art — to consider the co-benefits of protecting children against mercury pollution. That means it no longer matters to the agency that cleaning up mercury also reduces deadly particle pollution, saving lives in the process. And by that, EPA officials have shown that they are no longer in their right minds. They have lost all sense of morality, of what is just and fair, what is right. This EPA must be stopped.