WISC letter supporting the Mercury Rule
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As communities of faith, we are called to ensure justice for the most vulnerable among us and to serve as stewards of God’s great Creation. In keeping with these teachings, we urge you to oppose any attempt to overturn the recently finalized Utility MACT rule – a rule that would reduce mercury pollution and other air toxics, including arsenic, chromium, nickel, and acid gases, from power plants around the United States. The air toxics addressed in this rule have been shown to have harmful impacts on people, communities, and all Creation.
For more than twenty years, communities of faith around the country have sought stronger emissions standards for harmful air pollutants, particularly for emissions from coal-fired power plants. Many newer coal-burning power plants already meet the stricter emissions standards in the Utility MACT rule—according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), nearly 60 percent of coal burning power plants already have the equipment needed to comply with the new rule.
Many of the plants that do not meet the new standards are older, some of them more than fifty years old, and have been polluting the air, land, and water in our communities with mercury and other toxics for decades. Coal-burning power plants were the largest anthropogenic source of mercury emissions to the air in the U.S., accounting in 2005 for 51 percent of all domestic anthropogenic mercury emissions that year. As a result, many of the fish in our country’s lakes, rivers, and streams are not safe to eat in large quantities, and pregnant women and children are routinely warned not to eat them. This poses a particularly high risk to low-income and subsistence communities that depend on fishing in local lakes, rivers and streams to feed their families.
Other toxics that will be regulated by the new rule include arsenic, acid gas, nickel, selenium, and cyanide, all of which have significant impacts on public health. The EPA estimates that, in total, the rules could prevent as many as 11,000 premature deaths, 4,700 heart attacks and 130,000 asthma attacks every year and help to avoid $37 billion to $90 billion each year in health care costs.
Coal-fired power plants are frequently located in low-income neighborhoods or communities of color, and toxic emissions from their smokestacks disproportionately impact those vulnerable populations. For example, 17 percent of African American children suffer from asthma compared to the national average of 8.5 percent.
Our energy choices should not sacrifice the long-term health and well-being of our communities, our families and the whole of Creation. The Utility MACT rule promises a better, cleaner world to come, and a renewed creation: cleaner rivers, lakes, and streams flowing through healthier communities. We urge you to oppose any attempt to undermine or eliminate the Utility MACT rule, including Senator Inhofe’s Resolution of Disapproval as filed under the Congressional Review Act.
Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life
The Episcopal Church
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Franciscan Action Network
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Jewish Council on Public Affairs
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
Mennonite Central Committee US Washington Office
Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, Justice, Peace/Integrity of Creation Office
National Council of Churches USA
Presbyterian Church (USA) Office of Public Witness
Union for Reform Judaism
Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations
United Church of Christ – Justice and Witness Ministries
The United Methodist Church – General Board of Church and Society