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Moms Oppose Changes to EPA Mercury Rule

Maine has public-health advisories against eating fish from 14 bodies of water contaminated with mercury. (pxhere)
Maine has public-health advisories against eating fish from 14 bodies of water contaminated with mercury. (pxhere)
March 20, 2019

AUGUSTA, Maine - Do your job, protect our kids. That's the message dozens of mothers from 15 states took to Washington, D.C., this week.

The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed rolling back the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, or MATS, that limit hazardous pollution emissions from coal-fired power plants.

Shauna Watt with Moms Clean Air Force, and her 12-year-old son, Donovan, traveled from South Portland to testify at the only public hearing on the proposal. She said wind-borne pollution from power plants in other states has turned Maine into the "tailpipe of the nation," and the MATS rule is vital to the health of the state.

"About $170 million in health benefits are being saved by Mainers each year that they would otherwise be spending on asthma and other treatments from the adverse effects of mercury poisoning and toxic air," she said.

The EPA has claimed the cost of implementing MATS outweighs the benefits, but experts have pointed out that most of the industry already has implemented the rules at lower cost than expected.

Mercury is a potent neurotoxin that affects brain development, especially in infants and children. Watt said breathing contaminated air isn't the only problem. The mercury ends up in rivers, streams and lakes, where it enters the food chain.

"There's 14 bodies of water in Maine that have fish advisories against mercury contamination," she said, "so we really want to make sure that that doesn't increase."

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, is co-sponsoring legislation that would establish a national mercury-monitoring network to protect human health and safeguard fisheries.

Watt said her son testified at the hearing Monday. She noted that young people are acutely aware that they will inherit the environmental legacy left by mercury and other pollutants.

"They're experiencing firsthand the effects of climate change," she said, "and are making their voice heard right now to try to get everyone else to pay attention and care about this thing that we should all be taking action against."

The EPA will accept public comments on the proposed changes to the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards until April 17 online at epa.gov.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - ME