Tell the EPA to protect us from mercury pollution


Supporters spoke up in this action

Delivery to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan

Action ended on April 25, 2024

What Happens Next

Thank you to all who took action! We’re grateful for your support.

What Was At Stake

The idea of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) is to get all the air toxics out of power plants, not just mercury. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed updates strengthening its Mercury and Air Toxics standards (MATS), which has already proven to be one of the agency’s most successful air pollution rules. The proposed rule will require the dirtiest plants, which account for a disproportionate amount of power plants’ toxic pollution, to reduce their emissions. 

But to safeguard public health and reduce the environmental injustice caused by previous administrations’ failure to require adequate controls on power plants’ pollution, EPA needs to do more. The Biden administration should finalize the strongest possible updates to these vital protections.  

Until the MATS rule came online, coal plants accounted for half of the total man-made emissions of mercury in America and more than half of all arsenic, hydrochloric acid, hydrogen fluoride, and selenium emissions. The MATS rule, which has been in place since 2012, has reduced mercury emissions by 86% from 2010 levels. Nonetheless, the Trump administration sought to jeopardize the MATS rule in 2020 by withdrawing the agency’s original finding that controlling power plants’ toxic emissions is “appropriate.” Since 2016 when every power plant came into compliance, the MATS rule has prevented between 4200 and 11,000 premature deaths, 4,700 non-fatal heart attacks, 2600 hospitalizations for respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, and 540,000 lost workdays every year.   

Controlling pollution from power plants improves public health for people across the country by reducing fatal heart attacks, reducing cancer risks and avoiding neurodevelopmental delays in children. These public health improvements are also important for Indigenous communities, low–income communities, and people of color, whose neighborhoods have been disproportionately targeted as places where it’s acceptable to place polluting facilities.   

MATS can be strengthened, and the EPA can do this by setting more protective limits for particulate matter and mercury to better reduce the impacts of these emissions, including neurocognitive health impacts and cardiovascular impacts and to advance the Biden administration’s environmental justice goals.

We thank the EPA for restoring this commonsense rule and are calling on the Environmental Protection Agency to strengthen this rule. Everyone, no matter their zip code, has the right to clean air and a healthy environment. Tell the EPA to strengthen MATS today. 

Deadly fine particulate matter, also known as soot, is caused by pollution from tailpipes, smokestacks and industrial power plants.
Deadly fine particulate matter pollution, also known as soot, comes from tailpipes, smokestacks and industrial power plants. Breathing soot can cause premature death, heart disease, and lung damage. (Chris Jordan-Bloch / Earthjustice)

Your Actions Matter

Your messages make a difference, even if we have leaders who don't want to listen. Here's why.

You level the playing field.

Elected officials pay attention when they see that we are paying attention. Read more.

They may be hearing from industry lobbyists left and right, but hearing the stories of their constituents — that’s your power.

Our legislators serve at the pleasure of the people who gave them their job — you.

Make sure your elected officials know whose community and whose values they represent. When you contact your elected official, you’re putting a face and a name on an issue.

Whether or not you voted for them, they work for you, for the duration of their term.

Make sure your elected officials know whose community and whose values they represent. (Find your local, state, and federal elected officials.)

Your action is with us in court.

If a federal agency finalizes a harmful action, the record of public comments provides a basis for bringing them into court. Read more.

Throughout each of the public comment periods we alert you to, Earthjustice’s attorneys are researching and writing in-depth, technical comments to submit — detailing how the regulation could and should be stronger to protect the environment, our communities, and our planet.

We need you to join us — your specific experiences, knowledge, and voice are crucial to add to the Administrative Record through the comment periods.

Lawsuits we file that challenge weak or harmful federal regulations rely on what was submitted during the comment period. The court can only look at documents that are in the Administrative Record — including the public comments — to decide if the agency did something improper.

Your actions aid our litigation. Taking action and submitting comments during a comment period is substantively important.

It’s the law.

Federal agencies must pause what they’re doing and ask for — and consider — your comment. Read more.

Many of us may have never heard of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), but laws like these require our government to ask the public to weigh in before agencies adopt or change regulations.

Regulations essentially describe how federal agencies will carry out laws — including decisions that could undermine science, or weaken safeguards on public health.

Public comments are collected at various points throughout the federal government’s rulemaking process, including when a regulation is proposed and finalized. (Learn about the rulemaking process.) These comments become part of the official, legal public record — the “Administrative Record.”

When the public responds with a huge outpouring of support for environmental protections, these individual messages collectively undercut politicians' attempts to claim otherwise.

What this means is each of us can take a role in shaping the rules our government creates — and ensuring those rules are fair and effective.