Wheeler Ignores Public Health While Revoking Foundation of Protections from Pollution from Coal-fired Power Plants


Brian Willis, 202.675.2386, Brian.Willis@sierraclub.org


New Proposal Would Prioritize Profits over Health Benefits

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Today, Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler proposed plans to ignore the health and environmental benefits of clean air and water safeguards while prioritizing corporate polluter profits as part of a planned  roll-back to the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS). MATS protects Americans from pollution from coal- and oil-fired power plants. These safeguards, which EPA finalized in 2012 with compliance deadlines that ended in 2016, drastically curtailed the emission of dangerous toxic pollution that poisons wildlife, contaminates seafood, and threatens the health of pregnant women and young children.

 The dangerous proposed change to calculating the costs and benefits of proposed safeguards could mean the EPA would ignore the health benefits to the public from breathing cleaner air and drinking cleaner water, such as reduced health care costs, while prioritizing the costs to polluters to curb their own pollution.

 This proposed change comes just days after researchers at Harvard and Syracuse Universities found the EPA’s original cost estimates for MATS are lower than projected while health benefits are significantly higher than projected.

 MATS requires coal- and oil-fired power plants to significantly reduce their emissions of toxic pollutants like mercury, arsenic, hydrochloric acid, and a variety of other air pollutants which are especially harmful to vulnerable populations like infants and mothers. The EPA estimates that MATS protections would prevent up to 11,000 premature deaths and more than 130,000 asthma and heart attacks each year. The value of those benefits to the public is estimated to be as high as $90 billion annually.

In response, Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign Director Mary Anne Hitt released the following statement:

“Trump and Andrew Wheeler just put coal in the stocking and mercury in the drinking water of American moms and kids, in a cynical and dangerous move days after Christmas. If this disgraceful proposal is finalized, it will mean that profits corporate polluters rake in while making our kids sick will officially take priority at the EPA over the health of the public and the environment. The policy Andrew Wheeler and Donald Trump proposed today means more pregnant women, young children, and the elderly will be exposed to deadly neurotoxins and poisons, just so wealthy coal and oil barons can make a few extra bucks. Virtually every coal plant in the US has already met this lifesaving standard, and now Trump is recklessly trying to roll it back. If anyone needed further proof that Wheeler will do anything to help the fossil fuel millionaires who used to sign his paychecks, look no further.

“These clean air safeguards have already gone into effect and are helping to save thousands of lives every year. The American people don’t deserve to face the deadly consequences of these rollbacks just to please a few millionaire coal executives. Any sensible person would recognize that these basic protections for pregnant women and young children from pollution are not only vitally necessary but are already working. Undermining these safeguards and ignoring the way these and any future safeguards accounts for the health of the public are direct attacks on the health and development of millions of our most vulnerable people. While Wheeler and Trump are putting the interests of the fossil fuel industry before logic and before the health of American children, we are committed to working with our allies to fight these rollbacks at every opportunity.”

About the Sierra Club

The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 3 million members and supporters. In addition to helping people from all backgrounds explore nature and our outdoor heritage, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action. For more information, visit www.sierraclub.org.