Adding to a growing list of clean air victories, EPA announced new final rules to clean up power plant pollution on April 25. These wins came just one day after we called for these stronger rules in our 25th Annual “State of the Air” report

The American Lung Association has been actively advocating for these protections for years: the updated Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) for power plants, and new rules to curb emissions of carbon pollution from new gas-fired power plants and existing coal-fired power plants. American Lung Association President Harold Wimmer was honored to join EPA Administrator Regan in speaking at the EPA’s event at Howard University announcing the rules. These rules are a huge victory for public health and checks off another action that we called for in our “State of the Air” report. Let’s learn more about both rules: 

  • The new, stronger Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) for power plants will save lives and prevent lifelong harm. EPA standards already have a track record of success in cleaning up mercury and other dangerous emissions from coal-fired power plants. This updated rule will reduce these emissions even further. Mercury is a potent bioaccumulating neurotoxin that can cause severe developmental harm. Exposure to mercury is harmful for everyone, but it is especially devastating for babies and children. Burning coal and oil produces a long list of additional dangerous air pollutants, including carcinogenic metals as well as other emissions that react to form particulate matter. Exposure to fine particulate matter causes a host of health harms, including asthma attacks, strokes, heart attacks, lung cancer, reproductive harm and premature death.

    The new MATS rule will require continuous monitoring of emissions, which will ensure greater protection for nearby communities by assuring compliance with the pollution limits. It will also tighten emissions standards for non-mercury metals and requires some of the dirtiest plants to meet the same emissions standards as other types of coal plants.
  • The new rules to curb emissions of carbon pollution from new gas-fired power plants and existing coal-fired power plants will cut more than a billion metric tons of carbon pollution. Carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants is a major driver of climate change, which is a health emergency. To avoid the most catastrophic impacts of climate change, the country needs to dramatically cut its current carbon pollution levels. This rule brings us closer to the reductions we desperately need to protect health. This rule will also result in immediate benefits to health at the same time, reducing emissions of harmful oxides of nitrogen, sulfur dioxide and particulate matter. It would avoid at least 1,200 premature deaths in the year 2035 alone.
“These rules are an important step in reducing the carbon pollution that causes climate change. Cleaning up greenhouse gas emissions from coal- and gas-burning power plants will help stave off the worsening of climate change and its many health impacts. These measures will also result in reductions of additional harmful emissions from existing coal plants, which are disproportionately burdening communities nearby now." - Harold Wimmer

These rules are a big deal. They will protect children from permanent harm, prevent an untold number of health harms to communities living near power plants and will bring us one step closer to mitigating the climate crisis. They will save lives. 

But full implementation of the power plant rules is not a given. These rules and all of the others recently adopted by EPA must be fully implemented. Some in Congress will try to undermine these rules. It’s imperative the public knows the health benefits these rules will create, putting pressure on Congress to leave them in place.

Beyond defending and implementing these power plant rules, EPA has more work to do to deliver on its promise to deliver healthy air for all. One more way that EPA can help is by strengthening the limits on ozone pollution. Updates to the ozone standard are badly needed and long overdue. According to “State of the Air”, more than 100 million people, nearly 30% live in a county with a failing grade for ozone pollution, or smog. The health science shows that much stronger ozone limits would prevent asthma attacks and save lives. Please also join us in calling on EPA to strengthen the ozone standards.

Harold Wimmer with EPA Administrator Michael Regan Harold Wimmer with EPA Administrator Michael Regan
NC Community Connections: All About Asthma
, | May 22, 2024
Freedom From Smoking Clinic
, | May 29, 2024