US PIRG Submits 17,000 Petitions to EPA in Support of Life-Saving Mercury Air Standards

Media Contacts
Kara Cook-Schultz


This week, U.S. PIRG submitted 17,000 petitions to the EPA in support of the life-saving Mercury Air Toxics standards (MATs rule), a rule that the EPA proposes to suspend.

“The EPA should not rescind a rule that saves thousands of lives every single year,” said Kara Cook-Schultz. “EPA’s purpose is to protect human health and the environment from pollution. The MATs rule is one of the most successful pollution rules out there–even the power plant industry supports it. The EPA has to decide to keep the mercury rule.”

The MATs rule was enacted in 2011 and requires power plants to restrict the amount of mercury and other pollutants that the plants release. A vast body of science recognizes that air toxics from coal plants can cause or contribute to neurological damage in developing fetuses, chronic respiratory diseases, various cancers, and other severe damage to human health and ecosystems. In 2017, air toxics emissions from coal- and oil-fired power plants were 96 percent lower than before the rule took effect, leading to an enormous reduction in public exposure to these harmful pollutants.

The health benefits of the standards are enormous–they prevent up to 11,000 deaths, along with 130,000 asthma attacks among children, and 4,700 heart attacks every year. The standards reduce some of the most hazardous air pollutants emitted by power plants, including pollutants known to cause cancer, or birth or reproductive impacts, respiratory impacts, impaired brain development in children, and other harms to human health.

Most concerning, the EPA proposes to change the risk-benefit analysis used in the rule–meaning that in future rule-makings, the EPA may be allowed not to consider things like health risks and deaths in its risk assessments. Without taking public health impacts into account, many EPA rules that protect us from pollution could be rescinded.

U.S. PIRG joined with Environment America to also submit in-person and longform testimony about our concerns regarding rescinding this rule.