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Congresswoman McClellan leads legislators in pushing EPA to finalize new MATS Rule

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Congresswoman Jennifer McClellan of Virginia led more than 50 House Democrats today in calling on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to finalize a protective Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) Rule.

The rule would limit harmful air pollution, achieve better health outcomes for vulnerable Americans, and advance environmental justice.

MATS, established in 2012, required power plants to bring their hazardous air pollution under control and yielded significant public health benefits. However, the protections were severely undermined by former EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler during the Trump administration. Rollbacks were reversed under the Biden administration and, earlier this year, the EPA took additional action to strengthen MATS protections and further reduce toxic emissions.

“Air toxics from power plants — including mercury, hydrogen chloride, arsenic, chromium, cadmium, nickel and others — can cause or contribute to neurological damage in developing fetuses, chronic respiratory diseases, various cancers, and other severe damage to human health and ecosystems,” the lawmakers wrote. “Since the now-implemented 2012 MATS went into effect, the power sector has significantly reduced air toxics emissions, providing major public health benefits at costs far lower than expected, and without adverse effects on electric system reliability or the economy. However, power plants are still the nation’s largest emitter of mercury and other hazardous air pollutants.”

The news MATS standard could protect Americans every year by 2035 from 82 pounds of mercury, 800 tons of fine particulate matter (PM2.5), 8,800 tons of sulfur dioxide (SO2), 8,700 tons of nitrogen oxides (NOx), and 5 million tons of carbon pollution (CO2).

The reduction of mercury and other air toxics emissions is estimated to lead to $170 million to $220 million in annualized health benefits and another $170 million in annualized climate co-benefits, according to the EPA.

“More hazardous air pollutant reductions are achievable at reasonable cost and will achieve important public health improvements for all, but particularly for those communities that bear the greatest pollution burden or are subsistence or recreational fishers,” continued the lawmakers. “We, therefore, strongly encourage EPA to finalize these critical safeguards in an expeditious timeframe, no later than April 2024.”

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.