U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed the first-ever national standards for mercury, arsenic and other toxic air pollution from power plants, and they need us to speak up in support of it during the public comment period.
“The new power plant mercury and air toxics standards – which eliminate 20 years of uncertainty across industry – would require many power plants to install widely available, proven pollution control technologies to cut harmful emissions of mercury, arsenic, chromium, nickel and acid gases, while preventing as many as 17,000 premature deaths and 11,000 heart attacks a year.
The new proposed standards would also provide particular health benefits for children, preventing 120,000 cases of childhood asthma symptoms and about 11,000 fewer cases of acute bronchitis among children each year. The proposed standards would also avert more than 12,000 emergency room visits and hospital admissions and 850,000 fewer days of work missed due to illness.”
According to the EPA, the new standards will keep 91% of the mercury from coal from being released to the air at power plants, as well as reduce particle pollution from both coal and oil-fired power plants. Read Toxic Air: The Case for Cleaning Up Coal-Fired Power Plants.
The good news is that over half of our coal-fired plants are already deploying pollution control technologies, enabling them to meet these new standards.
The bad news is that 44% of them don’t have or use the equipment to reduce mercury and other forms of pollution from their operations. And because power plants are responsible for half of the mercury and more than half of acid gas emissions in the US, that makes them the largest remaining source of several toxic air pollutants here.
“Air toxics include some of the most hazardous air pollutants known to us. In addition to mercury and arsenic, power plants emit lead, other heavy metals, dioxin and acid gases that threaten public health and child development. Even in small amounts these extremely harmful air pollutants are linked to health problems such as cancer, heart disease, neurological damage, birth defects, asthma attacks and even premature death. Mercury is one example of a particularly harmful air toxic because it builds up in people who consume contaminated fish and the environment. A potent neurotoxin especially dangerous to children and developing fetuses, mercury exposure affects a child’s ability to walk, talk, read, write and learn.”
According to EPA studies, the mercury contamination problem in the U.S. is so widespread that as many as one in six women of childbearing age is likely to have mercury levels in her blood high enough to put her baby at risk.
So what can we do to make sure this proposal passes? We can speak up in support of it during the public comment period and tell the powers that be that we want stronger pollution standards for power plants. Already, our elected representatives are siding with big corporate interests and not the American people:
A new organization, which I’m a part of, called the Moms Clean Air Force, is working to get moms and dads to educate themselves about, and speak up on, important Clean Air issues like this one. Yes, I’m a dad, not a mom, but pollution doesn’t discriminate.
Just as we need the power of moms speaking out, we also need dads to help us to protect the quality of air for our kids. Because we’re stronger together.
To comment on this proposal, you can quickly send a message at the Environmental Defense Fund, or craft your own based on the info below:
Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2011-0044 (NSPS action)
Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2009-0234 (NESHAP action)
“Dear Lisa Jackson,
I want my children, and their children, to breathe clean air. I want EPA to keep doing its work, enforcing and strengthening the Clean Air Act. I’m outraged that polluters want to weaken it. I know that there are cost-effective technologies for coal plants to use, and since the new Mercury and Air Toxics Standards have been in the making for twenty years, there’s been more than enough time for coal plants to get ready. In fact, many responsible coal plant companies have already cut their emissions. I support the new, first ever national standards.”
Be sure to include the docket numbers, and email your comment to: firstname.lastname@example.org or fax to (202) 566-9744
You can also use these “Tweetable Air Toxics Facts” from EDF to share with your social network.
[Disclosure: I am working with Moms Clean Air Force to help raise awareness of this important issue, and will receive a small honorarium for my time. But I still wouldn’t hesitate to publicize this on Natural Papa even if I wasn’t, as clean air is essential for all of us, especially our growing kids.]
Image: Rennett Stowe at Flickr