President Obama & EPA Protect Public Health, Announce Landmark Mercury Standard for Power Plants

Media Releases

Environment Rhode Island

Providence, RI–– Today, President Obama and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the first-ever nationwide standard for mercury and air toxics pollution from power plants. A record 907,000 Americans submitted comments on the standard, which is expected to cut toxic mercury pollution from power plants by 90 percent.

“Today President Obama stood up to the polluters and protected kids’ health,” said Channing Jones, Field Associate with Environment Rhode Island. “For far too long, out-of-state power plants have been poisoning Rhode Island’s kids.”

Exposure to mercury and other air toxics is linked to cancer, heart disease, neurological damage, birth defects, asthma attacks, and premature death. Coal-fired power plants are the largest single source of mercury pollution in the United States. Human exposure occurs after mercury has dispersed into and circulated through the environment––so even though Rhode Island has no coal power plants, Rhode Islanders suffer from mercury pollution from other states.

Nationwide, mercury pollution is so widespread that one in ten American women of childbearing age has enough mercury in her blood to put her baby at risk should she become pregnant. By limiting emissions of mercury and air toxics from power plants, the Obama administration’s new standard is expected to prevent 130,000 cases of childhood asthma symptoms and save 11,000 lives every year.

For decades, the coal industry, their Congressional allies, and past presidential administrations have successfully delayed cutting mercury and other toxic air pollutants like sulfur dioxide and lead from the largest sources––even though technology to control toxic air pollution has been widely available, and is already used by some power plants.

The new life-saving standard announced today has widespread public support in Rhode Island and nationwide. “It’s abundantly clear that people in Rhode Island and across the country want cleaner air, healthier kids, and less toxic pollution spewed into our air, and thankfully, President Obama and EPA are taking action,” said Jones. “This landmark standard will improve our quality of life and protect children today and for generations to come from known poisons.”