President Obama & EPA Protect Public Health, Announce Landmark Mercury Standard for Power Plants

For Immediate Release

ANN ARBOR – Today, President Obama and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the first-ever nationwide standard for mercury and air toxics pollution from power plants. A record 907,000 Americans submitted comments on the standard, which is expected to cut toxic mercury pollution from power plants by 90 percent.

“Today President Obama stood up to the polluters and protected kids’ health,” said Jessica Surma, Federal Field Associate with Environment Michigan. “This landmark achievement reflects what every parent knows, which is that powering our homes should not poison Michigan’s kids.”

Power plants are the largest single source of mercury pollution in the U.S., and exposure to mercury and other air toxics is linked to cancer, heart disease, neurological damage, birth defects, asthma attacks and premature death.  This is a significant problem in Michigan, with Michigan ranking tenth in the amount of mercury emitted and 115 of our waterways under mercury advisories. 

Right now, mercury pollution is so widespread that one in ten American women of childbearing age has enough mercury in her blood to put her baby at risk, should she become pregnant.  By limiting emissions of mercury and air toxics from power plants, the Obama administration’s new standard is expected to prevent 130,000 cases of childhood asthma symptoms and save 11,000 lives every year. 

For decades, the coal industry, many utilities and their allies in Congress and past administrations have successfully delayed cutting mercury and other toxic air pollutants from power plants to protect public health, even though technology to control toxic air pollution is widely available, and already being used by some power plants. 

The new life-saving standard announced today has widespread public support in Michigan and nationwide. Last summer, roughly 907,000 Americans submitted comments on the new standards—the most comments ever received for an EPA rule—and the vast majority of them were in support of the standard. 

“It’s abundantly clear that Michiganders and people across the country want cleaner air, healthier kids, and less toxic pollution spewed into our air, and thankfully, President Obama and EPA are taking action,” said Surma. “This landmark standard will improve Michiganders’ quality of life and protect children today and for generations to come from known poisons.”