WE ACT for Environmental Justice Provides Testimony at Environmental Protection Agency’s Hearing on the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards for Power Plants

May 9, 2023
Contact: Chris Dobens, chris@weact.org, 718-679-8542


WASHINGTON – WE ACT for Environmental Justice’s Environmental Justice Research Analyst Manuel Salgado testified today at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s public hearing for the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) for Power Plants. Read his testimony below:


Testimony for Environmental Protection Agency’s Hearing on the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards for Power Plants

Tuesday, May 9, 2023

My name is Manuel Salgado, I am a geoscientist with a remote sensing and atmospheric science background, and I am the environmental justice research analyst for WE ACT for Environmental Justice.  We are part of the Clean Air for the Long Haul Cohort, a national group of environmental justice organizations working together to put forward campaigns and embed environmental justice in EPA rulemaking within the power and transportation sectors.  Thank you for the opportunity to provide comments on the proposed Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) for power plants.

Due to a legacy of structural racism leading to discriminatory housing practices and zoning, communities of color and low-wealth are not only on the frontlines of the climate crisis but are disproportionately overburdened by the health damaging effects of toxic pollution from coal and oil-fired power plants.  Exposure to these toxic chemicals leads to disastrous health effects and premature deaths.

High rates of exposure and health risks from mercury and other toxic air pollution is a stark reality for many of the environmental justice communities across the country who live, work, and go to school in the shadow of coal and oil fueled power plants.  EPA’s own analysis shows that among people living within 10 kilometers of coal plants, a higher percentage live two times below the national poverty level average.

Children are especially at risk from mercury emissions from power plants.  Studies have shown mercury exposure for children – both born and unborn – leads to reduced neurological function which persists into adulthood and negatively impacts the rest of their lives.

Our communities have contended with emissions from coal burning power plants for far too long.  This rule is a critical opportunity to reduce the danger from mercury and other toxics for fence line communities and for the EPA and the entire administration to protect public health and honor its commitments to equity and environmental justice.

While we commend the EPA for taking these steps to further reduce the danger posed by mercury and other air toxics, the reality is that there are no safe levels of exposure to these toxic emissions.  I repeat, there are NO safe levels of exposure to mercury, lead, arsenic, and other toxic pollutants from coal power plants.  We ask the EPA to finalize a more stringent alternative standard of no higher than 0.006 pounds per million BTU for non-mercury hazardous air pollutants.

We fully support the EPA’s proposal to revise the mercury standard for Lignite-fired power plants to a more stringent level.  If lignite is allowed to be used for electricity generation, it should be subjected to the most stringent emissions standards for all air pollutants.  We agree with this long overdue proposed emission limit for mercury.

We also support the EPA’s proposal to require continuous emissions monitoring for particulate matter from all coal power generating units.  Real time data from continuous monitoring is essential to protect public health; especially in fence line communities.

The EPA must swiftly finalize strong protections against mercury and other toxic emissions from power plants to ensure clean air, water, and land, and to protect the health of overburdened environmental justice communities.

Thank you for the opportunity to testify.  I look forward to continued engagement and working with the EPA to finalize and then implement and enforce the strongest possible mercury and air toxics standards for power plants.  Thank you.


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