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Megan Severson,
Wisconsin Environment Research and Policy Center

Hundreds turn out in Chicago to support U.S. EPA's Mercury and Air Toxics Rule for power plants

For Immediate Release

Madison, WI—The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) solicited public input for their recently proposed Mercury and Air Toxics Rule for power plants at a hearing held today in Chicago. Hundreds of people turned out to show support for this critically important public health protection.

“Powering our homes should not poison our kids,” said Megan Severson, state advocate for Wisconsin Environment. “After decades of dirty energy lobbyists getting their way, EPA has finally issued a rule that is a major step toward clean air and healthy Americans. It’s about time dirty coal companies are required to clean up their act.”

EPA estimates that the rule –which cuts mercury and other toxic air pollutants like arsenic and acid gases from power plants – will for the first time reduce mercury from power plants nationwide by 91 percent, prevent 12,200 trips to the hospital, and save 17,000 lives each year once it is implemented. EPA is currently collecting public comments for this rule; the public comment period ends July 5th. EPA will use all comments it collects during this period to inform the strength of the final rule, and will finalize the rule November 16, 2011.

The Mercury and Air Toxics Rule will significantly cut an array of toxic air pollutants like mercury, arsenic, lead, and acid gases — which are linked to cancer, heart disease, neurological damage, birth defects, asthma attacks and even premature death. Exposure to mercury affects a child’s ability to walk, talk, read, write and learn. Mercury pollution is so widespread that as many as one in six women of childbearing age has enough mercury in her blood to put any child she has at risk. Coal-fired power plants are the single largest source of mercury pollution, arsenic and acid gases. The coal industry has successfully blocked EPA from protecting public health by cutting mercury and other toxic air pollutants from power plants since 1990.

According to Wisconsin Environment’s report, “Dirty Energy’s Assault on Our Health: Mercury,” Wisconsin power plants emit more mercury pollution than power plants in 32 other states. “According to Wisconsin Environment’s report, “Dirty Energy’s Assault on Our Health: Mercury,” power plants in Wisconsin emitted 2,720 pounds of mercury pollution in 2009.

“Our air, our bodies and our children are no place for toxic pollution,” said Severson. “While big polluters undoubtedly will work to roll back and weaken this essential public health safeguard, Wisconsin Environment applauds EPA for cleaning up toxic air pollution. We urge EPA to stand its ground and set the strongest air toxics protection possible to defend public health and protect America’s children from toxic mercury.”

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Wisconsin Environment is a statewide environmental advocacy organization, working to protect clean air, clean water and open spaces.