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Restore the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards

Delivery to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan

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What’s At Stake

Coal-fired power plants are the worst of the worst industrial polluters. Toxic air pollutants from power plants are linked to asthma, heart disease, cancer, and thousands of premature deaths each year. That is why Earthjustice has fought for nationwide protections to clean up air emissions from power plants and we need your help to defend and strengthen this rule. 

The idea of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) is to get all the air toxics out of power plants, not just mercury. 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.  

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. 

The EPA proposed restoring the legal finding that it is “appropriate and necessary” to regulate power plants’ hazardous air emissions, after former EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler (incidentally, a former coal lobbyist) tried to gut the rule. Restoring the finding paves the way for the EPA to strengthen MATS and ensure that all communities are fully protected from this dangerous pollution.  

More progress is needed, however, as power plants are still allowed to emit unlimited quantities of certain other harmful pollutants like benzene and dioxins. Plants should be required to further reduce their pollution through stronger pollution controls and more consistent monitoring and maintenance of their equipment. 

We are calling on the Environmental Protection Agency to restore this commonsense legal finding which will pave the way to strengthen MATS. Everyone, no matter their zip code, has the right to clean air and a healthy environment. Tell the EPA to restore MATS today!

Deadly fine particulate matter, also known as soot, is caused by pollution from tailpipes, smokestacks and industrial power plants.
Chris Jordan-Bloch / Earthjustice

Deadly fine particulate matter, also known as soot, is caused by pollution from tailpipes, smokestacks and industrial power plants. Breathing soot can cause premature death, heart disease and lung damage.

Your Actions Matter

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

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You level the playing field.

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

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. 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.

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.

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 more 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.