Experts Discuss How Trump’s EPA is Attacking Standards That Keep Our Families Safe from Mercury

BY ON January 11, 2019

experts in health, faith, and social justice communities

Moms Clean Air Force recently gathered leading experts to discuss the EPA’s attack on the life-saving Mercury and Air Toxics Standards. The conversation brought Senator Tom Carper (D-DE) together with health, faith, and environmental justice experts, who discussed how undermining these standards is a direct threat to babies, children, pregnant women, and vulnerable communities. Speakers addressed mercury pollution as an immoral hazard to our children’s health, and highlighted how the EPA’s proposal is broadly opposed by health professionals, the faith community, the power sector, and civil society.

Participants included:

Here are excerpts from the call. You can listen to the whole conversation here.

Dominique Browning

Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler recently proposed a revision to the mercury regulations claiming the standard would, for now, remain in place. Do not be deceived. EPA is claiming that it’s not “appropriate and necessary” to regulate mercury under the Clean Air Act. This is a cynical ploy to trick the public by first undermining the very foundation upon which the regulation of one of the most toxic contaminants is built, claiming that it’s critically flawed. Wheeler is inviting lawsuits from the coal industry to then stop the standards. It’s a perilous move and it threatens not only protections against mercury but a host of other poisons including lead, arsenic, acid gases, and the lethal particulates.

Senator Tom Carper

The industry is calling on EPA to keep the 2012 MATS rule in place. I think we should too. In fact, in July 2018, about six months ago, I think every major utility trade organization representing coal fired generation and other utilities joined with labor organizations including IBEW, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, to urge the EPA to keep the MATS rule in place and effective. You’ve got a situation here where the industry and labor are coming together, along with health organizations, along with environmental groups, basically saying the same message: This is working. Why mess it up?

Dr. Philip J. Landrigan

When a pregnant woman eats a fish that is contaminated with methylmercury, the methylmercury from the fish passes into her bloodstream, and once it’s into her bloodstream it can immediately go across the placenta into the bloodstream of her baby and reach the baby’s brain. So the mercury that the mother eats, within the hour, is in the brain of her unborn child, and in the brain, that mercury can cause a lot of damage….

“Once the damage is done, doctors, nurses, social workers, and teachers do their best to work with children, to help children, to develop workarounds, to develop alternate learning styles and ways to cope with the disability. But it is still a disability. Once the damage has been done, even though you can develop workarounds, you can’t undo the damage. The only rational way to prevent the brain damage caused to unborn children and young infants by methylmercury is to prevent exposure from taking place in the first instance. And what that means very simply is reducing, not increasing, the amount of mercury that goes into the atmosphere from coal fired plants.

Mustafa Santiago Ali

It’s quite interesting to me, as someone who’s talked to literally thousands of communities and seen disproportionate impacts that happen in communities of color, that administrator Wheeler would even consider this. I think he may have forgotten what his responsibility is. The mission of the Environmental Protection Agency is to protect public health and the environment. It’s not to create sacrifice zones. It’s not to create cancer clusters. And it’s not to create hotspots. All of these things would happen if this [attack on the mercury standards] is allowed to move forward.

Rev. Mitch Hescox

In this era of fake news, Mr. Wheeler has to know that removing the appropriate and necessary prerequisite finding from the rule opens the door for his former coal industry clients to pursue lawsuits, especially in the D.C. Circuit Court, to overturn the standards, while he can wash his hands and blame the courts. And while Mr. Wheeler can claim utilities will not turn off their existing control equipment, he has made no commitment that EPA would continue to enforce compliance with this standard. And there is also no guarantee that public utility commissions will not choose lower rates by demanding that mercury costs cannot be recouped if they are no longer necessary. It is very likely that this action would open a wide door for increased emissions of mercury and cause additional life threats to our children’s health. We are morally affronted by this action.



TOPICS: Activism, African-American Community, Air Pollution, Children's Health, Clean Air Rules and Regulations, Climate Change, Coal, Environment, Mercury Poisoning, Politics, Religion, Science