Attorney General Becerra Opposes the Trump Administration Plan to Undermine Mercury and Air Toxics Standards

Thursday, April 18, 2019
Contact: (916) 210-6000,

SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra has joined a multistate comment letter to oppose an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposal undermining emission standards for power plants. The proposal would unlawfully remove justification for Clean Air Act regulation of mercury and air toxics emissions from coal-and oil-fired power plants. These power plants are the largest sources of airborne mercury emissions that cause serious and widespread public health, environmental, and economic harms.

“The EPA’s proposal to weaken or eliminate standards protecting against hazardous pollutants endangers public health and poisons our environment,” said Attorney General Becerra. “Once again the Trump Administration is picking and choosing its facts to prop up dirty power, while the American public suffers the consequences.”

The Clean Air Act requires the EPA to set pollution control standards for hazardous air pollutant emissions from power plants, if doing so is “appropriate and necessary.” In 2016, the EPA found that the standards were “appropriate and necessary” after a detailed determination that the massive benefits dwarfed the estimated costs. With its new proposal, the EPA would reverse this finding and instead conclude that regulation of these power plants is not “appropriate and necessary.” The EPA would reach this new conclusion by relying on outdated cost estimates that have since proven too high, while largely ignoring the tremendous public health and environmental benefits of the existing standards.

In the letter, the Attorneys General assert that the EPA does not have legal or factual basis for the proposed determination that the costs of regulating toxic air emissions outweigh the benefits. The annual public health and environmental benefits of the current standards are expected to range from $37 to $90 billion, including the prevention of 11,000 premature deaths. This significantly outweighs the $9 billion in regulatory costs.

The coalition of 21 Attorneys General and five cities and counties emphasize that individual states cannot adequately protect against dangers posed by hazardous air pollutants without a federal backstop. Failure to regulate mercury and air toxic standards could cause serious consequences – including an increase in neurological damage, cancer, and acute and chronic respiratory diseases, particularly for children and women of child-bearing age.

Attorney General Becerra joins Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey in filing the letter, along with the Attorneys General of Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia, as well as the City Solicitor of Baltimore; the Corporation Counsels of Chicago and New York City; and the County Attorneys of Erie County, New York and the County Counsel for the County of Santa Clara, Calfornia. 

A copy of the letter can be found here.

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