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Grassroots Activists Protest EPA Toxic Regs Rollback

Fine-particulate pollution mixes with smog to blanket downtown Phoenix in haze during a recent winter air inversion. (Wikimedia Commons)
Fine-particulate pollution mixes with smog to blanket downtown Phoenix in haze during a recent winter air inversion. (Wikimedia Commons)
March 20, 2019

PHOENIX - Members of the grassroots group Moms Clean Air Force testified this week at the only public hearing on the Environmental Protection Agency's plans to roll back some air-pollution regulations.

More than 30 moms from Arizona and 14 other states went to Washington, D.C., to voice their disapproval of a Trump administration proposal to weaken the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, or MATS. The rules set limits on air pollution from factories and coal-fired power plants.

Claudia Faudoa, a community organizer for Moms Clean Air Force in Phoenix, said she is worried about how an increase in toxic pollutants would affect her three young sons.

"I came from Chihuahua, Mexico, 25 years ago, and the reason I came is - like everybody who emigrates to another country - looking for a better quality of life," she said. "I was thinking, 'When I have children, I want them to grow up in a healthy environment.' "

Faudoa said she also advocates for immigrants' rights and environmental justice, but added that rolling back air-pollution rules hits too close to home.

The MATS rules originally were put in place by the Obama administration, but under President Donald Trump's EPA, a cost-benefit analysis found them to be neither "appropriate" nor "necessary." Despite that, most coal-powered plants already have complied - and at a lower cost than expected.

Faudoa said she is concerned that any weakening of mercury protections would directly and disproportionately harm the health of Latino families, a group she said already is vulnerable to toxic exposures.

"Latinos and communities of color, low-income families, we live closer to very high-pollution areas," she said. "You can take the freeway to Phoenix, and you can see factories right there in neighborhoods. And who lives there? My people."

Arizona has five coal-fired power plants, along with a mix of natural gas, hydroelectric, wind, solar and nuclear power stations.

Faudoa said the EPA MATS rules not only protect people from mercury pollution, but also from other cancer-causing toxins.

The EPA proposal is online here. The agency will accept public comments on the proposed changes until April 17 here.

Mark Richardson, Public News Service - AZ