APCC Opposed to EPA's proposed policy changes

APCC News Release:

This week, the Association to Preserve Cape Cod sent a letter to the acting administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Andrew Wheeler, expressing opposition to the EPA’s proposed policy change relating to mercury and other toxic emissions from coal- and oil-fired power plants.

The EPA is proposing to make a determination that it is not "appropriate and necessary” to regulate hazardous air pollutant emissions from power plants "because the costs of such regulation grossly outweigh the quantified benefits."

The policy announcement by the Trump administration marks a sharp shift away from EPA policies adopted in 2011, which resulted in Mercury and Air Toxics Standards regulations that placed restrictions on the amount of mercury and other pollutants released from power plants. APCC is concerned that the EPA policy decision to retract justification for the emissions restrictions intentionally opens the door to a legal challenge by the coal industry against the MATS rule and the inevitable rescission of MATS.

“Once again with the current administration in Washington DC, we are faced with the prospect of actually moving backwards in basic protections of the environment and public health,” said Andrew Gottlieb, APCC’s executive director. “As the Cape’s leading environmental advocate, we have no choice but to continue to speak out against these assaults on the environment that adversely impact our region.”

From 2011 to 2017, the MATS regulations were responsible for an 81 percent reduction in mercury emissions alone, according to the Center for American Progress. In addition to mercury, coal-fired power plants also release highly toxic substances such as arsenic, lead, hydrochloric acid, hydrogen fluoride, selenium, cadmium and chromium. Many of these substances are known to be carcinogenic. Others can cause significant harm to the central nervous system, lung disorders, kidney damage and other serious health conditions.

By the EPA’s own estimates, emissions reductions under the MATS regulations would prevent approximately 11,000 premature deaths, 4,700 heart attacks and 130,000 asthma attacks each year.

In the letter to Wheeler, APCC points to direct impacts the EPA policy shift would have on Cape Cod’s environment and public health. The Cape is vulnerable to pollution from coal-fired power plants located in other parts of the country. These emissions adversely impact air quality, pollute surface water and contaminate fish and shellfish.

Advisories from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health are posted for 26 Cape Cod ponds, as well as numerous water bodies across Massachusetts, warning people not to eat the fish caught there due to mercury contamination. Depending on the level of contamination, the advisories warn against fish consumption for children, pregnant women or women of childbearing age and nursing mothers, up to a warning against anyone consuming fish from the most contaminated water bodies. ( https://www.mass.gov/lists/fish-consumption-advisories )

“As the downwind recipient of the pollution EPA intends to allow into the air, Cape Codders have to collectively say that the value of protecting the developing brains and neurological systems of our children from increased toxic heavy metal air pollution is far greater than paying back the administration’s coal burning friends,” stated Gottlieb. “The fact that we even have to have this conversation is appalling.”

Founded in 1968, APCC is the leading nonprofit environmental advocacy and education organization for the Cape Cod, Massachusetts region. Representing thousands of members, APCC works for the adoption of laws, policies and programs that preserve, protect and enhance Cape Cod’s natural resources and quality of life.

The following is the text of APCC’s letter to EPA Acting Administrator Wheeler:

February 4, 2019

Andrew Wheeler, Acting Administrator

Environmental Protection Agency

Attention: EPA Docket Center (EPA/DC), Mail Code 28221T

1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20460

RE:    Proposed Revised Supplemental Cost Finding for the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (EPA Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2018-0794)

Dear Acting Administrator Wheeler:

The Association to Preserve Cape Cod (APCC) writes in strong opposition to the proposal by the Environmental Protection Agency to roll back the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) policy by “determining it is not ‘appropriate and necessary’ to regulate hazardous air pollutant (HAP) emissions from power plants.” In adopting this proposed rollback of policy, the EPA would effectively abdicate its responsibility to protect the health and welfare of the American public by properly monitoring and regulating air pollution from coal-fired power plants.

Founded in 1968, APCC is the leading nonprofit environmental advocacy and education organization for the Cape Cod, Massachusetts region. Representing thousands of members, APCC works for the adoption of laws, policies and programs that preserve, protect and enhance Cape Cod’s natural resources and quality of life.

Reversing the EPA’s MATS policy would inevitably lead to a rollback of mercury pollution standards, which is a direct threat to Cape Cod’s environment and the health of the citizens of this region. Due to our geographic location, the northeastern U.S.—including Cape Cod—is highly vulnerable to mercury pollution and other toxic emissions from coal-fired power plants located in other parts of the country. These emissions adversely impact the quality of our air and water.

EPA’s own findings in 2000 confirmed that a link exists between the emissions of coal-generated power plants and mercury contamination in fish. Indeed, Cape Cod’s 1,000 freshwater ponds are suffering the consequences of power plant mercury emissions that make their way to our waterbodies and contaminate our fish and shellfish, which are then consumed by people. At too many of the Cape’s ponds, posted notices warning not to eat the fish caught in the ponds due to high levels of mercury contamination are a visible reminder of the impact this pollution has caused. 

As the federal agency charged with protecting our nation’s public health and environment, it should

be incumbent upon the EPA to continue to monitor and limit emissions of mercury and the other toxic pollutants emitted by coal-fired plants such as arsenic, lead, hydrochloric acid, hydrogen fluoride, selenium, cadmium and chromium. Again, according to the EPA’s own conclusions, these pollutants cause lung problems, harm to the central nervous system, kidney damage and other serious health disorders. Yet framed against these well-documented risks, the EPA’s proposed MATS policy change cannot be viewed as anything other than an overt maneuver to favor the bottom line of the coal industry over the obvious public health benefits of air pollution restrictions.

Because of implementation of the MATS rule, power plant mercury emissions from 2011 through 2017 dropped by approximately 81 percent. The current policy is working, and the power generating industry is adapting to the standards set by the MATS rule. Rolling back MATS policies now would reverse the great progress we have achieved in the last ten years in decreasing mercury and other toxic pollutants in our air. APCC urges you to withdraw the MATS rollback proposal and instead renew the EPA’s commitment to protect our nation’s environment and the health of its citizens.

Sincerely,

Andrew Gottlieb                                            Don Keeran

Executive Director                                         Assistant Director

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