By: Lucia Valentine, West Virginia field coordinator, 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 Lucia Valentine, and I am the West Virginia organizer for Moms Clean Air Force. I am from Shepherdstown, West Virginia, and have lived in the Mountain State my whole life. My passion and work is dedicated to the intersection of advocacy, environmental justice, and children's health. I am here today because I support this administration’s proposal to reinstate the appropriate and necessary finding of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards.
Growing up along the banks of the Potomac River, I have been no stranger to the negative public health impacts heavy industry, particularly coal-fired power plants, has on the state of West Virginia. Pollution from coal-fired power plants, specifically mercury, degrades water quality, air quality, and threatens our health. However, coal plants continue to emit dangerous quantities of hazardous air pollution. Coal-fired power plants are currently the largest source of mercury pollution in the United States, accounting for approximately 8,800 pounds of mercury emissions in 2017 alone. EPA’s proposal to reinstate the legal foundation of the standards that limit mercury and other toxic, carcinogenic pollution from coal-fired power plants is a public health necessity. It will shore up standards that have helped slash mercury pollution by more than 80%.
I want to share that there is no safe level of mercury consumption. Mercury is especially dangerous for developing babies and children as it can cross the blood-brain and placental barriers after ingestion, leading to toxic effects on fetal and infant brains. Additional health harms linked to mercury exposure include cardiovascular problems and increased risk of heart attacks. Limiting mercury pollution also reduces other 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. Recent studies prove that reducing toxic pollution has provided greater health benefits than anticipated, for less money.
Since air pollution is disproportionately distributed, with low-income communities and communities of color bearing the heaviest burden, it is essential for environmental justice that the legal foundation of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards be restored, and that the standards themselves be strengthened in order to protect the health of families and children across the country. Thank you for the opportunity to testify.