By: Patrice Tomcik, Senior National Field 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 this opportunity to testify. My name is Patrice Tomcik, and I am the mother of two boys and a Senior National Field Manager for Moms Clean Air Force, an organization of over 1 million moms and dads united to protect our children from air pollution. I live in Gibsonia, Pennsylvania, about 30 minutes north of Pittsburgh, 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.
Coal-fired power plants are a significant source of mercury pollution across our nation emitting approximately 8,800 pounds of mercury emissions in 2017 alone. In Southwestern Pennsylvania where I live, there are two coal-fired power plants that emit a very large amount of mercury pollution—the Keystone and Conemaugh power generating stations. Exposure to mercury is a particular concern for pregnant women, nursing mothers, and young children. I remember my doctor warning me to avoid certain kinds of fish during pregnancy because mercury is a toxic heavy metal that can cause brain damage and impairs learning and growth. Along with mercury pollution, power plants emit other pollutants that can cause premature deaths, asthma, chronic bronchitis, and heart attacks.
I have lived my whole life in Southwestern, Pennsylvania, and grew up living two miles downwind from the coal-fired Cheswick power generating station. As I drive to visit my mother who still lives there, I see the plumes from the stacks of the Cheswick plant float over the river toward the playground I played on as a child. I missed a lot of school due to chronic bronchitis, and now as an adult, I have respiratory problems. My mother has a chronic cough and respiratory problems. My father had COPD and a heart attack requiring quintuple bypass surgery before he passed about a year ago. It is well-known that the Greater Pittsburgh Area has some of the worst air pollution in the nation according to the American Lung Association.
To compound the air pollution problems are the six coal-fired power plants in Pennsylvania. I am concerned about the harmful power plant pollution that can travel long distances and what my children are breathing into their lungs. Children are especially vulnerable to air pollution because their bodies are still developing. My youngest son is a cancer survivor, and I know his immune system is compromised, which makes him very vulnerable to pollution. This is why I am so passionate about my work for Moms Clean Air Force but recognize that I can’t control the air my son breathes and rely on the EPA to do their job and protect him from harmful air pollution. MATS provides significant public health protections by reducing mercury and other heavy metals like arsenic that can cause cancer.
In addition, MATS will help to clean up the mercury pollution in our bodies of water. My family really enjoys recreational fishing, but I won’t let my children eat the fish. I know that mercury and other heavy metals emitted from power plants falls and deposits in our water bodies and eventually gets into fish—and people who ingest these fish. There is no safe level of mercury consumption because it is a toxic heavy metal. As of 2021, 101 bodies of water in the state of Pennsylvania were under fish consumption advisories due to mercury contamination.
Thank you so much for the opportunity to testify today in support of the proposal to reinstate the appropriate and necessary finding of the MATS. I urge you to go further and strengthen the MATS standards to protect the health of those most vulnerable to mercury pollution.