By: Celerah Hewes, Project Manager, Moms Clean Air Force
Date: February 24, 2022
About: Mercury and Air Toxics Standards for Power Plants: Proposed Reaffirmation of the Appropriate and Necessary Finding, Docket ID No. EPA–HQ–OAR–2018–0794
To: Environmental Protection Agency
Thank you for the opportunity to speak on this issue. My name is Celerah Hewes, and I am a Project Manager for Moms Clean Air Force—a community of more than 1 million moms and dads fighting to protect our children from climate change and air pollution in an equitable way. I am from Albuquerque, New Mexico, where I live with my nine-year-old daughter, and I am here today to support this administration’s proposal to reinstate the appropriate and necessary finding of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards.
When I found out that I was pregnant 10 years ago, one of the first instructions from my doctor was to not eat fish likely to be contaminated with mercury as it could impact the development of my baby. As a toxic heavy metal, it can cause long-term losses in IQ scores, impaired motor function, learning impairments, and behavioral problems in children. While the risk to my unborn baby was much greater than to me, this caused me to wonder why a toxic chemical was in my food at all. Shouldn’t stronger safeguards be in place to protect the health of families across the country? The simple answer is: Yes.
We know that there is no safe level of mercury consumption. According to the World Health Organization, exposure to mercury—even small amounts—may cause serious health problems and is a threat to the development of the child in utero and early in life. Coal-fired power plants are the largest source of mercury pollution in the United States, accounting for approximately 8,800 pounds of mercury emissions in 2017 alone. A recent study from Harvard also proves that mercury standards work, and reducing toxic mercury pollution from US power plants has provided greater health benefits than anticipated, and for less money. The EPA’s own 2022 proposal indicates that pollution reductions have been even greater than forecasted in 2012, showing that mercury emissions are down 86% compared to 2010, far greater than the 75% reduction expected. We must protect the health of our communities by swiftly addressing the health harms of mercury and air toxics.
Limiting mercury pollution not only protects unborn children, it also protects adults and reduces other toxic air pollutants from power plants, helping to prevent exposure to air pollution linked to cancer, asthma, premature death, and other serious health harms. Air pollution is disproportionately distributed, with low-income communities and communities of color bearing the heaviest burden. While toxic air is most dangerous for people who live near these plants, it can also spread hundreds of miles. Mercury is so prevalent and dangerous that there is no mother whose life has not been touched by it: Whether it was simply a warning from her doctor or a much more devastating experience.
Once again, I support the EPA restoring the finding that Mercury and Air Toxics Standards are appropriate and necessary, and I urge the agency to strengthen these standards to fully clean up mercury and other toxic air pollution. Thank you for the opportunity to be heard today.