Carper Statement on EPA’s Move to Undermine the MATS Rule

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.), top Democrat on the Environment and Public Works Committee, issued the following statement after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) determined it is no longer “appropriate and necessary” to protect public health from mercury and other toxics like arsenic and benzene from power plants, despite EPA’s own analysis that describes the Mercury and Air Toxic Standards (MATS) Rule would prevent thousands of premature deaths, reduce the occurrence of asthma attacks and acute bronchitis and prevent more than 800,000 missed days of work.

The science is clear and irrefutable. Mercury has a devastating impact on the neurological development of unborn children and the health of children and our most vulnerable populations. By deeming it is no longer ‘appropriate and necessary’ to protect people from mercury and other air toxics, EPA is removing the legal underpinnings of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards to ensure that this life-saving rule can eventually become unraveled.

“Under normal circumstances, I might remark that this is just another day at the Trump EPA—another environmental rollback. But the egregious nature of this action is different. Every American utility is already in compliance with the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards. Compliance with the rule was achieved faster than expected and at a fraction of the cost. So let it be known that this is a truly needless rollback that will only create more uncertainty for our nation’s utilities. It will only lead to worse public health outcomes and, truly, could not come at a worse time.

“Our country is suffering the grave and growing loss of tens of thousands of American lives to a novel coronavirus that attacks our respiratory systems, and this EPA is advancing rules that will cause more respiratory illness. As we learn more about the link between air pollution and COVID-19-related deaths, this EPA is ignoring these warnings for the sake of scoring politically-driven ‘wins’ that will only increase harmful air pollution and put the most vulnerable among us at greater risk. And as we learn more about the lasting effects of COVID-19 on the heart and lungs, EPA is all but ensuring that higher levels of harmful air pollution will make it harder for people to recover in the long run, too.

“This is how our nation’s Environmental Protection Agency is ‘aggressively responding’ to the COVID-19 pandemic, by putting Americans’ lives further at risk. It bears repeating that none of this is acceptable and Americans deserve better.”

From 1983 to 1993, Senator Carper served as Delaware’s only congressman in the U.S. House of Representatives and worked alongside the late John Dingell, then-chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. There, Senator Carper helped to pass the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990, legislation that was sent to the president’s desk with the support of 400 U.S. representatives and 89 senators.

After the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 were signed into law, Senator Carper worked with Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) on legislation that would have required utilities to eventually reduce mercury emissions by 90 percent. When the Obama Administration finalized the MATS rule in 2012, the rule required utilities to meet a 90 percent reduction in mercury emissions. MATS also required a 50 percent reduction in other air toxic emissions.

During the Trump Administration, as the senior most Democrat on the Senate EPW Committee, Senator Carper has continued to defend the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards rule:

  • November 12, 2019 – Senator Carper and Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee) penned an op-ed in USA Today defending the MATS rule as success, and urging EPA to not go forward with its rollback of the rule’s legal foundation.
  • March 18, 2019 – Senator Carper testified at an EPA hearing to defend the MATS rule.
  • February 22, 2019 – Senator Carper elevated the MATS issue as a priority in the nomination process of then-Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler.
  • December 28, 2018 – Senator Carper slammed the proposal after it was announced during a government shutdown, saying “EPA has decided to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, and all Americans will suffer as a result.”
  • December 13, 2018 – Senator Carper in December sent a letter to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) expressing grave concerns that in making this decision, EPA is ignoring or dismissing many of the MATS rule’s public health benefits and actual costs.
  • August 28, 2018 – Senator Carper introduced the Comprehensive National Mercury Monitoring Act with Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine), a bipartisan bill that would establish a national mercury monitoring network.
  • August 24, 2018 – Senator Carper sent a letter with Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) to EPA requesting that EPA keep the MATS rule in place.
  • December 16, 2017 – Senator Carper discussed Pruitt’s antagonism towards regulating mercury while he led the overnight floor debate on the confirmation vote for Scott Pruitt to lead EPA.
  • November 9, 2017 – Senator Carper highlighted EPA Assistant Administrator for Air and Radiation Bill Wehrum’s opposition to regulating mercury from power plants.
  • January 18, 2017 – Senator Carper in 2017 questioned then-Attorney General Scott Pruitt last year about EPA’s commitment to regulate mercury. Pruitt replied that “Mercury under the Section 112 is something that EPA should deal with and regulate.”