PennEnvironment Statement: EPA attack on mercury pollution standards puts our health at risk

Media Contacts
Zachary Barber

Agency decision goes against common sense wishes of public, most utility companies

PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center

PITTSBURGH — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last night finalized an attack on the Mercury Air Toxics Standards (MATS), which limit emissions of mercury and other toxics from power plants that use fossil fuels.

This action comes despite a vast body of science recognizing air toxics from coal plants can cause or contribute to neurological damage in developing fetuses, chronic respiratory diseases, various cancers, and other severe harm to human health and ecosystems.

In response, PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center’s Clean Air Advocate Zachary Barber released the following statement:

“The EPA’s job is to protect us from threats like toxic pollution, but by undermining mercury standards it is doing exactly the opposite.  According to the EPA’s own data, the Mercury Air Toxics Standard has reduced levels of this dangerous neurotoxin by 96 percent. That success should be celebrated, not attacked.

“EPA’s decision today opens the door to more mercury pollution, which has been linked to developmental problems and a host of other health risks.

“Before the Mercury Air Toxics Standard, Pennsylvania regularly ranked as some of the highest levels of mercury emissions in the nation from our power sector. Yet over the past nine years since MATS was put on the books, the state has seen our mercury emissions drop 90% from coal-fired power plants. This attack is a massive step backwards in the fight to protect public health.

“Reducing mercury pollution doesn’t only make good health sense for Pennsylvania, it also makes good economic sense for the state. With nearly 1.6 million anglers in the state, the fishing industry creates over $850 million in economic output annually–and that’s no small fry for Pennsylvania’s economy.”


PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center is a 501(c)(3) organization. We are dedicated to protecting our air, water and open spaces. We investigate problems, craft solutions, educate the public and decision-makers, and help the public make their voices heard in local, state and national debates over the quality of our environment and our lives. For more information, visit