The Sierra Club and Care2 Action have drafted a petition letter to thank President Obama and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Lisa Jackson for passing tough new standards regulating emissions from power plants. The Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS), which were passed and finalized in December 2011, will control the levels of toxic pollutants released by power plants – such as mercury, arsenic, nickel, and cyanide – by applying pollution controls that are already in use at more than half of power plants across the country to all power plants. There are no limits on the amount of pollution that power plants are allowed to produce, a dangerous rule that affects public health as well as the environment.
The first-ever federal standards for power plant emissions, the much-anticipated MATS will prevent 11,000 premature deaths, 130,000 cases of childhood asthma, 6,300 instances of childhood acute bronchitis, and 4,700 heart attacks per year. Toxic emissions are known to cause developmental disorders such as prenatal nervous system defects, heart disease, cancer, and respiratory illnesses such as asthma. These illnesses particularly affect babies, children, and pregnant women, and incur unnecessary and preventable expenses on Americans and their health care bills; enacting the new MATS will save Americans and their families $90 billion annually in health and economic costs.
In addition to health and economic benefits, the MATS will have a positive impact on unemployment rates. Implementing pollution control technologies in power plants will create as many as 46,000 short-term jobs and 8,000 long-term jobs in construction, utilities, installation, manufacturing, and engineering. Power plants will have three years to comply with the new rules, but many states are expected to allow them a fourth year to transition to the new standards.
Carried by the wind, toxic compounds can travel several hundred miles and remain in the atmosphere for years. Emissions from power plants contribute to environmental issues like smog, poor air quality, acidification of lakes, damage to ecosystems in forest and coastal regions, and deterioration of historic buildings. Once it is released into the atmosphere, mercury can travel through the air before settling in bodies of water, where it contaminates the water and poisons birds and fish.
Power plants account for half of all mercury emissions and two-thirds of all acid gas emissions nationwide. According to the U.S. Energy Administration, as of 2010, 45 percent of energy generated in the United States came from coal, 24 percent from natural gas, 20 percent from nuclear energy, 10 percent from renewable sources, and 1 percent from petroleum.
In the petition letter, the Sierra Club and Care2 Action write, “Carbon pollution is the main contributor to climate disruption and is linked to life-threatening air pollution like asthma-inducing smog, making it a serious hazard to Americans’ health and future … By setting up carbon pollution protections, the EPA is moving forward to clean up and modernize the way we power our country — a move that will equal healthier kids, families and workers, while creating much-needed jobs and fighting climate disruption.”
The petition acknowledges that, though the MATS are a strong start to eliminating our country’s pollution problem, more actions can, and should, be taken in the future to further hold polluters accountable for carbon emissions. The two organizations are encouraging the public to show support for President Obama and the EPA – and to encourage the federal government to prioritize public and environmental health by enforcing further clean air laws – by signing the petition as a thank-you note. If you think that the Obama administration and the EPA have put the country on the right track with the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, sign the petition thanking our president!
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