By: Tracy Sabetta, Ohio 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 today. My name is Tracy Sabetta, and I am a state field organizer for Moms Clean Air Force in Columbus, Ohio. I support this administration’s proposal to reinstate the appropriate and necessary finding of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards.
In 2011, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) introduced the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS). MATS put in place national pollution standards for coal- and oil-fired power plants, and the standards have been highly effective in reducing mercury pollution and protecting human and ecosystem health. Since MATS was implemented, mercury emissions are down 86%, acid gas hazardous air pollutants have been cut by 96%, and non-mercury metal hazardous air pollutants have been reduced by 81%, according to EPA data.
In Ohio alone, more than 14 coal plants have reduced their mercury and air toxics pollution as a result of these standards, contributing to an 86% decrease in mercury pollution in our state since 2011.
Mercury protections also limit the release of other toxic air pollutants from power plants, helping to prevent exposure to air pollution that has been linked to cancer, respiratory illnesses (like asthma), premature death, and other dangerous health problems. Because communities of color and low-income communities bear the heaviest burden of air pollution, reducing mercury and air toxics pollution is an issue of environmental justice.
Most mercury exposure happens through the consumption of fish. People who eat fish more frequently, like recreational fishers, are at higher risk for experiencing health impacts from mercury. There are many fish consumption advisories due to mercury contamination for water bodies across the United States.
In May of last year, the Ohio Department of Health, in conjunction with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources issued the 2021 Ohio Sport Fish Consumption Advisory Table. The table lists 195 bodies of water in Ohio with consumption advisories for mercury in certain breeds of fish. These bodies of water span from Lake Erie to the Ohio River to smaller bodies of water like Conneaut Creek, where it is recommended you eat fish from that creek less than one time per month because of mercury and other pollutants.
When pregnant women eat contaminated fish, mercury can cause long-term impacts, such as impaired motor function, learning impairments, and behavioral problems in their children. Additional health harms linked to mercury exposure include cardiovascular problems, including increased risk of heart attacks.
It was 23 years ago that my obstetrician cautioned me not to eat fish during my pregnancy. Having grown up on the shores of Lake Erie, fish had been a staple in my diet my entire life. But I did heed the warning and changed my eating habits. Now here we are 23 years later, and we are still working to reduce mercury pollution. I am sure my daughter will receive the same warning should she decide to start a family.
The 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%. It will protect our unborn children from the toxic effects on fetal and infant brains. It is a moral imperative.
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. Thank you.