Chicago – Attorney General Kwame Raoul, along with 18 attorneys generals and cities, announced today he filed comments in support of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposal to update and strengthen the 2012 Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS).
The MATS are nationwide standards that limit coal- and oil-fired power-plant emissions of toxic air pollutants, such as mercury and other toxic metals. Given significant developments in the technologies used to control pollution, the EPA is proposing stricter standards for emissions of mercury and other toxic metals from coal-fired power plants.
“Mercury and other toxic pollutants released from coal- and oil-fired power plants threaten our environment and can lead to serious health effects in humans,” Raoul said. “I am committed to addressing environmental justice issues in Illinois and strongly support the EPA’s commonsense proposal to once again treat mercury pollution as the serious issue that it is.”
Raoul and the coalition’s comments strongly support the EPA’s proposal, but push the EPA to go further and strengthen the mercury limits on most plants to be consistent with states that have more stringent power-plant mercury standards. The coalition also urges the EPA to impose more stringent emission limits on power-plant particulate matter emissions, which contain other toxic metals such as arsenic, lead and nickel, and to impose the shortest feasible compliance deadlines.
The coalition explained power-plant emissions of mercury and particulate matter disproportionately harm certain vulnerable and highly exposed populations. Mercury in particular poses serious dangers to public health, with especially harmful effects on pregnant women, children and wildlife.
For example, a pregnant person’s consumption of methylmercury exposes their child to mercury and can cause lifelong adverse developmental effects such as impaired attention, fine motor function, visual-spatial abilities and verbal memory. Exposure to methylmercury also increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, infertility, diabetes and autoimmune dysfunction in adults.
Mercury emissions from power plants also are a major contributor to mercury contamination of U.S. waterways, necessitating fish consumption advisories in all 50 states. Mercury pollution in lakes and rivers impacts the local commercial and recreation fishing economies, as well as vulnerable and tribal communities that rely on fishing for subsistence.
Joining Raoul in filing the comments are attorneys general of Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin, as well as the city solicitor of Baltimore and the corporation counsels of Chicago and New York City.