PNS Daily Newscast - November 14, 2019 

New evidence arises from the first impeachment hearing; one in four federal student loan borrowers defaults early on; and growing proof that vaping isn't the healthy alternative it was thought to be.

2020Talks - November 14, 2019 

It's World Diabetes Day, and health care, including the high cost of insulin and other drugs, is a top issue for many voters. Plus, do early states like Iowa and New Hampshire have an outsized role in the nomination process?

Daily Newscasts

Moms Call for Protection of Children from Mercury Pollution

According to Moms Clean Air Force, eight coal plants in Maryland have reduced mercury and air toxics as a result of mercury standards (Cathy at Creative Commons)
According to Moms Clean Air Force, eight coal plants in Maryland have reduced mercury and air toxics as a result of mercury standards (Cathy at Creative Commons)
January 24, 2019

ANNAPOLIS, Md. – Moms from Washington, D.C. are among those asking elected leaders to think hard about making Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist, the nation's top environmental steward.

In the seven months since becoming acting administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Wheeler has moved to unravel regulations, including clean water rules and methane emissions from oil and gas drilling.

Elizabeth Brandt, a field organizer with Moms Clean Air Force in Washington, says with all the environmental setbacks in Chesapeake Bay and extreme weather across the region, she is baffled by Wheeler's plans to also roll back limits on mercury emissions from coal plants.

"So why, when we have all of these environmental problems, are we focusing on re-evaluating a policy that is working to prevent mercury pollution, which harms babies and fetuses’ brains?” she questions.

Brandt says mercury pollution in Maryland has been reduced by 72 percent since implementation.

During his Senate confirmation hearing, Wheeler said protecting human health and the environment were his most important responsibility.

Democrats criticized Wheeler's actions to undo Obama-era rules intended to improve the environment and protect public health.

The Mercury and Air Toxics Standards were passed in 2011, and the EPA now maintains they are too expensive and cannot be justified as "appropriate and necessary."

Dominique Browning, co-founder of Moms Clean Air Force, counters that the standards have reduced mercury emissions considerably as well as other toxins spewed by coal plants – most of which, she notes, already are in compliance.

"The coal industry put these scrubbers on their plants and they realized that, in fact, it didn't cost anywhere near as much as they thought it was going to cost to put on these protections," she points out.

Wheeler became acting EPA administrator after Scott Pruitt resigned amid an ethics controversy.

Browning says she wishes there were less public focus on Trump administration scandals and more attention given to attacks on the environment.

She points out that mercury gets stronger as it goes up the food chain.

"Mercury will be eaten by small fish and then they get eaten by larger,” she explains. “And instead of getting weaker, which is what would happen in most cases, with mercury the poison gets stronger until it is in large, fatty fish."

The Mercury and Air Toxics Standards were estimated to create more than $1.8 billion in health benefits in 2016 in Maryland alone.

Trimmel Gomes, Public News Service - MD