OAKLAND – California Attorney General Rob Bonta, as part of a multistate coalition, expressed support for the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposal to rescind a Trump-era rule undermining critical mercury and other toxic pollution limits and reaffirm its prior finding that these limits are “appropriate and necessary” to protect public health and the environment. The Mercury and Air Toxics Standards limit emissions of mercury and other hazardous air pollutants from coal- and oil-fired power plants, preventing tens of thousands of premature deaths and generating billions of dollars in economic benefits each year.
“Communities living at the intersection of poverty and pollution bear the brunt of toxic air pollution from power plants, and suffer from chronic respiratory illness, cancer, and other health problems as a result,” said Attorney General Rob Bonta. “The Mercury and Air Toxics Standards are critical for reducing this pollution and protecting public health. In fact: These standards quite literally save lives. I urge the EPA to move swiftly to finalize its proposal.”
“We appreciate that U.S. EPA has revoked its unjustified 2020 finding that regulating hazardous air pollutants from power plants is not appropriate and necessary,” said California Air Resources Board Executive Officer Richard W. Corey. “We also applaud the agency’s return to considering all benefits from the regulation, such as accompanying reductions in particulate matter. This action reaffirms the appropriateness and necessity of regulating hazardous air pollutants from power plants as an important foundational tool for reducing air toxics in overburdened communities.”
Fossil fuel-fired power plants are the largest source of hazardous air pollution in the United States, including acid gases, mercury, and other toxic metals such as arsenic, chromium, and nickel. These pollutants cause serious health harms including neurological damage, cancer, and acute and chronic respiratory diseases, particularly in children and people who are pregnant. Mercury pollution, in particular, tends to disproportionately impact environmentally vulnerable communities such as tribes, subsistence fishers, and fence line communities.
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 Mercury and Air Toxics Standards were “appropriate and necessary” after a detailed determination that the massive benefits dwarfed the estimated costs. However, on May 22, 2020, the EPA reversed this finding. California joined a multistate coalition in filing a lawsuit challenging the reversal shortly thereafter.
In the comments, the attorneys general argue that:
Attorney General Bonta joins the attorneys general of Massachusetts, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia, as well as the the cities of Baltimore, Chicago and New York City in filing the comments.
A copy of the comment letter is available here.