WE ACT for Environmental Justice Advised U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to Preserve Existing Mercury and Air Toxics Standards During Public Hearing

March 19, 2019
Contact: Dana Johnson, 202-548-4585, dana@weact.org


WASHINGTON, D.C. – Yesterday the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) held a public hearing on its residual risk and technology review of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) rule. Kerene N. Tayloe, Esq., Director of Federal Legislative Affairs at WE ACT for Environmental Justice, provided the following testimony in support of preserving the rule:

“Good morning! My name is Kerene Tayloe and I serve as the Director of Federal Legislative Affairs at WE ACT for Environmental Justice.

WE ACT was founded in Harlem, NY, 31 years ago and has worked every day to improve the planet by empowering people to power change. We also convene the Environmental Justice Leadership Forum – a consortium of 43 environmental justice organizations in 21 states.

WE ACT engages in federal policy advocacy because we understand that low-income residents, communities of color and Indigenous Peoples live in sacrifice zones for those who produce a vast majority of the pollution that is destroying our planet.

Communities of color, low-income residents and Indigenous Peoples have long endured living close to sources of heavy pollution, including power plants and high-traffic roadways, and have experienced greater exposure to carbon, lead, nitrogen oxide, mercury and many more pollutants than White communities. For example, more than 1.8 million Latinos live within half a mile of oil and gas facilities and the number is increasing every year. In addition, 68 percent of African Americans live within 30 miles of a coal-fired power plant.

While I appreciate the opportunity to go on record at this hearing, it is concerning that environmental and social justice advocates have to constantly fight what appears to be a concerted effort by the Trump Administration to put the needs of industry before the protection of our health.

The Mercury and Air Toxics Standards protect us from pollution. Mercury is a powerful neurotoxin that is linked to brain and nervous system damage and compromised fetal development.

The Mercury and Air Toxics Standards have led to life-saving reductions in dangerous mercury, soot and other toxic pollutants released from coal- and oil-burning power plants.

Since it was introduced in 2012, the MATS rule has resulted in $18 billion of investment by industry to be in compliance. These investments, parallel state requirements, other Clean Air Act programs, and non-environmental drivers have reduced mercury emissions by nearly 90 percent during the past decade. The data makes it clear that the rule works. It does not make sense to roll back a rule that EPA data shows saves lives.

What is the goal of rolling back the MATS rule? Is it to prioritize the interests of industry influencers, such as Bob Murray of Murray Energy, where EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler once worked? Or to continue to gain ground in preventing 11,000 premature deaths; 5,000 heart attacks; or 130,000 asthma attacks that are associated with keeping the MATS rule in place? Are coal profits more important than the financial and emotional toll associated with 5,700 hospital and emergency room visits because of poor living conditions?

Do not let this be further confirmation that the Trump Administration is more concerned with industry profits and perceived benefits as opposed to the health and welfare of mothers, children and the elderly. These are the populations that the EPA must prioritize.

We are at a time in our history where the industries of our past, such as coal, are being prioritized over the health and welfare of all Americans. We have the opportunity to make choices that will ensure everyone can enjoy clean air, water and food – including those who have historically been on the frontline of pollution from coal, oil and gas power plants. It is possible to advocate for the public welfare and have a thriving energy economy.

Please do not roll back the Mercury Air Toxic Standards. Choose to ensure that we have a healthy nation with vibrant communities.”

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WE ACT for Environmental Justice is a Northern Manhattan membership-based organization whose mission is to build healthy communities by ensuring that people of color and/or low-income residents participate meaningfully in the creation of sound and fair environmental health and protection policies and practices. WE ACT has offices in New York and Washington, D.C. Visit us at weact.org and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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