By: Elizabeth Bechard, Senior Policy Analyst, 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 testify.
My name is Elizabeth Bechard, my pronouns are she/her, and I am a Senior Policy Analyst with Moms Clean Air Force, which as you’ve heard from my colleagues is an organization of over 1 million parents around the country. I’m from Durham, North Carolina, where I currently live with my husband and five-year-old twins. I am also a graduate student in public health, and I strongly support this administration’s proposal to reinstate the appropriate and necessary finding of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards.
One of the things that breaks my heart the most about air pollution is its impact on babies and children. In addition to keeping dangerous levels of mercury out of our air, the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards also cut fine particle pollution from power plants, which has been linked to numerous health harms, including an increased risk of premature birth.
Almost six years ago, I found out what it’s like to be the mother of babies who are born too early. In March 2016, my twins were born at 34 weeks. They spent the first nine days of their life in the NICU at Duke University, and without treatment for respiratory distress syndrome, my daughter may not have survived. Premature birth is one of the leading risk factors for infant mortality, and here in North Carolina, prematurity accounts for 1 in 5 infant deaths. The health impacts of premature birth can be long-lasting: at almost six years old, my son still struggles daily with sensory processing disorder, which research has linked to premature birth. My husband and I struggle too when our son can’t tolerate wearing much of his clothing or when his behavioral challenges wear on our already-frayed nerves. And like far too many parents, we will never forget spending the first days of our children’s lives watching them hooked up to breathing and feeding tubes in hospital incubators, rather than resting peacefully with them at home.
The impacts of air pollution on premature birth aren’t distributed evenly—research shows that Black mothers and babies are affected most by the health risks of air pollution exposure during pregnancy, making this an issue of environmental justice.
Pollution from coal-fired power plants, like the coal-fired power plant on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where I attended college, degrades air quality, threatens our health, and harms the most vulnerable members of our communities—our babies.
Once again, I support the proposal to reinstate the appropriate and necessary finding of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, and I urge you to go further and strengthen the standards. No parent should ever have to wonder whether the air they breathe will harm their child’s health. Thank you.