Last week the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled in favor of upholding national limits on dangerous air pollutants emitted by coal-fired power plants. The Environmental Protection Agency Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) are part of the Clean Air Act amendments and were established to greatly reduce the amount of mercury, arsenic and other toxins released into the air we breathe every day.
Since they were first introduced in 2011 the limitations have been widely opposed by industry groups claiming the EPA is exaggerating the benefits. However, factories and power plants that burn coal remain the largest source of toxic air pollutants in our country and are to blame for roughly half of all mercury emissions in America. If all goes well, the limits will be fully enforced by 2015 or 2016, with significant long-term benefits for human health. An EPA Fact Sheet breaks it down by the numbers:
- The final rule establishes power plant emission standards for mercury, acid gases, and non-mercury metallic toxic pollutants that will: prevent 90 percent of the mercury in coal burned in power plants from being emitted to the air; reduce 88 percent of acid gas emissions from power plants; and cut 41 percent of sulfur dioxide emissions from power plants beyond the reductions expected from the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule.
- Together, MATS and the Cross‐State Air Pollution Rule are estimated to provide annual benefits of $150‐$380 billion and prevent 18,000 – 46,000 premature deaths, 540,000 asthma attacks, 13,000 emergency room visits and 2 million missed work or school days each year.i
Health advocates and environmental organizations including the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) were among those who argued in defense of the health protections. EDF president Fred Krupp recognized the victory in a recent press release, saying, “Today, the court recognized that mercury and other dangerous air toxins from coal-fired power plants are a threat to public health, and that we should all be protected from them. Now we must complete the essential work to achieve these clean air protections for our children and for all Americans.”
To learn more about where toxins come from, their effects on your body, and how to take the first steps toward cleaner living in an increasingly toxic world, read Brenda Watson’s book The Detox Strategy, or visit www.DetoxStrategy.com.