Madison, Wisconsin – 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 Scott Thompson, Clean Energy Associate with Wisconsin Environment. “This landmark achievement reflects what every parent knows, which is that powering our homes should not poison Wisconsin's 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. In 2010 power plants in Wisconsin emitted 1,329 pounds of toxic mercury. 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. 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.
Momentum for the new federal standard began with state-level standards in Wisconsin and other states. Such state-level action helped prove that significant cuts in mercury pollution were indeed possible.
For decades, the coal industry, many utilities and their allies in Congress and past administrations have successfully delayed cutting mercury and other toxic air pollutants from power plants to protect public health, even though technology to control toxic air pollution is widely available, and already being used by some power plants.
The new life-saving standard announced today has widespread public support in Wisconsin 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 Wisconsinites 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 Thompson. “This landmark standard will improve Wisconsinites' quality of life and protect children today and for generations to come from known poisons.”
Wisconsin Environment is a state-wide and citizen-based environmental advocacy organization that works for clean air, clean water and open spaces