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

Media Contacts

Environment Texas Research & Policy Center

AUSTIN– 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 Tessa McClellan, Field Associate with Environment Texas. “This landmark achievement reflects what every parent knows, which is that powering our homes should not poison Texas’ kids.”

Power plants are the largest single source of mercury pollution in the U.S., and exposure to mercury and other air toxics is linked to cancer, heart disease, neurological damage, birth defects, asthma attacks and premature death. Ranking first in the nation, power plants in Texas emitted 11,127 pounds of mercury pollution in 2010. Six of the top ten biggest mercury-polluting plants are located in Texas.

Right now, 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. 

“Texas has the unhappy distinction of having the most airborne mercury pollution,” said Dr. Elliot Trester, Board Member of Austin Physicians for Social Responsibility. “We know that mercury causes permanent brain damage, learning disabilities, sensory impairment and attention deficits in children and increases cardiovascular risk in adults in general and is particularly dangerous to pregnant women and their fetuses. By instituting this new standard, the health of Texans will be substantially improved.”

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.

Congressman Lloyd Doggett also joined Environment Texas in praising today’s announcement.

“These new limits on toxic pollution will save lives,” Doggett said. “Finally some progress on public health pollution standards, especially at the close of a year that saw unprecedented attacks against environmental law enforcement.”

For decades, the coal industry, their Congressional allies, and past presidential administrations have delayed action that would sufficiently cut mercury emissions and other toxic air pollutants like sulfur dioxide and lead from the largest sources – even though some power plants were already using widely available technology to control toxic air pollution.

“Today’s action by the Obama administration and the EPA should be applauded by state elected officials and voters as it will help move the state off dirty coal to cleaner Texas-produced forms of power including renewables and natural gas, which create in-state jobs and revenue for the state budget.  This is a win-win for children’s health and Texas’s future,” said David Weinberg, Executive Director of Texas League of Conservation Voters.

The new life-saving standard announced today has widespread public support in Texas and nationwide. Last summer, roughly 907,000 Americans submitted comments on the new standards—the most comments ever received for an EPA rule—and the vast majority of them were in support of the standard. 

“It’s abundantly clear that Texans and people 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 McClellan. “This landmark standard will improve Texan’s quality of life and protect children today and for generations to come from known poisons.”




Environment Texas is a statewide, citizen-funded advocate for clean air, clean water, and open spaces.