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They’re Still Talking About Historic Mercury and Air Toxics Standards

Release Date: 12/22/2011
Contact Information: press@epa.gov

WASHINGTON - Yesterday the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the first national standards to protect American families from power plant emissions of mercury and air toxics like arsenic, acid gas, nickel, selenium, and cyanide. These new Mercury and Air Toxics Standards will slash emissions of these dangerous pollutants by relying on widely available, proven pollution controls that are already in use at more than half of the nation’s coal-fired power plants.

Today, leaders from across the country are still talking about these historic standards. Here’s what they’re saying about Mercury and Air Toxics Standards:

Larry Schweiger, National Wildlife Federation:
“Our children and grandchildren will inherit a safer world thanks to the leadership of President Obama and Administrator Jackson. At long last, these prudent and overdue limits on unchecked mercury and toxic air pollution will ensure our fish will be safe to eat, and our children can breathe easier.”

Gene Karpinski, League of Conservation Voters:
“Today is a historic day for the health and safety of our children. We strongly applaud the Obama administration for setting new limits on mercury and other toxic air pollution from power plants – limits that will save lives, prevent illnesses like asthma and bronchitis and create jobs in pollution control technology.”

PJM:
“PJM and four other RTO/ISOs proposed in comments to the EPA a process to ensure that reliability in our respective regions can be maintained as the final Mercury and Toxics Standards (MATS) Rule is implemented. The final MATS rule will have different degrees of impact in various parts of the country. We at PJM are pleased that the EPA Administrator has included the key elements of our proposed process to preserve reliability into documents accompanying the Final Rule. We at PJM intend to work with EPA, FERC, the states and others to ensure that process can be effectively utilized to address particular reliability challenges and ensure that the reliability of the electric grid is maintained during this critical period.”

Senator Patrick Leahy (Vt.):
“I commend the Environmental Protection Agency for doing the right thing, under tremendous special interest pressure, in standing up for the public’s interest. The Utility Air Toxics Rule to control toxic air pollutants such as mercury is a health and environmental breakthrough for the American people, and especially for Vermonters. Finally, after 20 years of dodging regulation, coal- and oil-fired electric power plants, the largest contributors of these toxics, will be held accountable for the pollution they emit, just as many other industries are.”

Senator Ben Cardin (Md.):
“Clean air is essential for the health of every American and it’s also good business. It’s time for the rest of the country’s electricity generation sector to catch up with Maryland and do what our power producers have been doing for years now to protect children from toxic mercury and air toxics pollution...Mercury is an extremely harmful neurotoxin that our country’s largest source producers, power plants, must act to address. The doomsday scenarios described by our nation’s power companies who irresponsibly continue to operate the nation’s oldest and dirtiest power plants are not based in reality. The rule being finalized today is the result of litigation demanding EPA to comply with the Clean Air Act.”

Senator Tom Carper (Del.):
"With this decision, I believe the Environmental Protection Agency has provided a reasonable and achievable schedule for our dirtiest power plants to reduce harmful air toxic emissions. At the same time, I believe the Environmental Protection Agency has given enough flexibility to industry and states to meet those targets and address any possible local reliability concerns. These clean air investments will be a win-win-win as we save thousands of lives, save billions of dollars in health care costs and work productivity, and create good paying jobs here at home by cleaning up these dirty power plants. In fact, this new rule is expected to produce 46,000 jobs in the near term during the installation of the needed clean air technology, and thousands more for long-term utility jobs.”

Senator Bernie Sanders (Vt.):
"I strongly support the Clean Air Act standards announced today that will slash toxic air pollution, such as mercury and arsenic, from our nation's power plants. We know from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that mercury can cause brain damage and is particularly harmful to infants and young children. We also know that installing the necessary pollution control scrubbers and equipment will create jobs as we update our power plants. This clean air rule is long overdue, and I commend EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson for protecting our families' health and wellbeing."

Frances Beinecke, Natural Resources Defense Council:
“The magnitude of these health benefits could make this rule one of the biggest environmental accomplishments of the Obama administration. I applaud the administration’s continued leadership in making our air cleaner and safer to breathe.”

U.S. Commerce Secretary John Bryson:
“For business leaders, there are few challenges greater than uncertainty, and by issuing today’s ruling, this Administration has answered definitively a question that has hung over the U.S. energy industry for nearly 20 years,” Bryson said. "These new standards have benefits that far exceed costs, and the flexibility built into their adoption will help guarantee that implementation will proceed in a thoughtful, common-sense way that limits negative impacts on businesses.”

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack:
“By reducing emissions of highly toxic pollutants such as mercury, we are ensuring that our air and water are cleaner and American families are safer. Folks in rural America have a great appreciation for the land and work hard to preserve our environment for future generations. These standards support their efforts by improving millions of acres of polluted ecosystems that will create better habitat for fish and wildlife and provide more recreational opportunities for all Americans to enjoy.”

Energy Action Coalition:
“Young voters are thrilled that EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and the Obama Administration are standing up to big polluters to protect our generation’s health and spur job creation in the clean energy economy. This decision shows the Obama Administration’s commitment to stand up to Big Coal and Oil to protect the air we breathe. We hope the Administration will continue to stand up for the health and safety of Americans and the environment in the coming year.”

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.):
“Today, the EPA has taken an important step to protect public health, particularly the health of children. After years of Rhode Island receiving pollution from out-of-state power plants, the largest sources of toxic air pollution will finally be required to reduce emissions of these dangerous chemicals. I applaud our local utility, National Grid, for its support of these new clean air protections.”

Senator John Kerry (Ma.):
“The bottom line is, this will mean fewer heart attacks and asthma attacks, fewer kids exposed to mercury, and thousands of good jobs for the American workers who will build, install, and operate the equipment to reduce these toxic pollutants. Smart health and environmental protections go hand in hand with economic growth and reliable, affordable energy.”

Representative Elijah Cummings (Md.):
“These new standards, which have been twenty years in the making, will safeguard American families and protect our environment from dangerous mercury and toxic air pollution. I commend the EPA for finalizing rules that will prevent thousands of premature deaths and hundreds of thousands of heart attacks and other illnesses. These new national standards will create thousands of American jobs and generate health and economic benefits worth tens of billions of dollars.”

Representative Ed Markey (Mass.):
“This rule to limit mercury and other dangerous toxics is one of those times when you can truly say ‘we’re doing it for the kids. While the Obama administration wants to cut mercury pollution to protect kids and pregnant mothers, Republicans want to knife the MACT, stopping these standards from ever going into effect. The 91 percent reduction in mercury in Massachusetts since 1996 shows that these standards are attainable. The standards will reduce mercury by increasing innovation, as entrepreneurs and inventors will discover new and better ways to cut pollution and move to cleaner forms of energy that produce no pollution at all, like wind and solar power. I commend the Obama administration, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, and the staff at the EPA for their dedication to the health and well-being of America’s kids.”

Business Council for Sustainable Energy:
"Uncontrolled toxic air emissions are real and sizeable threats, both to public health and to the economy. Families, companies and investors need certainty on air emissions policy for healthier living and for economic growth. The finalization of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards provides more certainty on emissions policy and will drive investment in innovative technologies and America’s energy infrastructure. American businesses can keep the lights on and grow the economy while protecting public health. Shifting to lower emissions technologies and resources while upgrading our nation's electric generation infrastructure will help drive economic growth and create jobs."

Senator Barbara Boxer (Calif.):
“Power plants are not only the nation’s largest source of dangerous mercury emissions, but they also pollute the air we breathe with lead, arsenic, chromium, and cyanide. These hazardous air pollutants are known to cause cancer, harm children’s development, and damage the brain and nervous system of infants. EPA estimates that this new clean air rule will annually prevent up to 11,000 premature deaths, 4,700 heart attacks, 130,000 asthma attacks and many other health benefits. The science and methodology used to determine these benefits have been extensively peer reviewed by EPA’s independent Science Advisory Board and the National Academies of Science. The agency estimates that this clean air rule will also provide up to 46,000 construction jobs and 8,000 long-term jobs in the utility industry. EPA’s action today will generate jobs and protect the health and safety of families across the country.”

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn:
“In Illinois, we have seen the benefits of enacting stringent requirements for reducing mercury emissions over the last several years. As a result, thousands of pounds of harmful mercury emissions have been kept out of our air. The President’s action will protect millions of Americans from these dangerous emissions just like we have been doing in Illinois.”

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius:
“When the Environmental Protection Agency announced achievable new standards today for mercury and other toxic pollutants from power plants, it took a critical step forward in promoting a safe and healthy environment where all families can raise their children free from dangerous chemical exposure. At the Department of Health and Human Services, we know that people’s health is not just determined by what happens in the doctor’s office. It depends on where we live and work, what we eat and the air we breathe.”