Press Releases

Carper Testifies at EPA Hearing to Defend the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) Rule

After sending a bipartisan letter with Sen. Alexander (R-Tenn.) urging EPA to protect the MATS rule, Senator Carper testified at EPA and joined environmental and health advocates to speak out against EPA’s proposal to undermine MATS

Mar 18 2019

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.), top Democrat on the Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW), delivered testimony at a public EPA hearing on the agency’s recent proposal that puts the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards in legal jeopardy. Before his testimony, Senator Carper and Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) sent a letter to EPA with Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine), Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) urging the agency to keep the rule in place.

“We now know that the costs of implementing MATS were wildly overestimated, and the benefits were grossly underestimated. Today, every utility in the U.S. is in compliance with MATS. It was done faster than predicted, at a third of the costs. Consumer rates are lower than they were before MATS, and we’re already seeing the health benefits emerge. All of this begs the question of why we are here today?” Senator Carper testified.

“If we’ll be honest about it, most people in this room today know that the proposal before us will likely lead to the undoing of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards. By gutting the legal foundation for MATS, EPA is opening the door to future lawsuits to vacate the rule entirely Despite what EPA claims, the proposal before us now is not about addressing co-benefits of the MATS rule. Rather, it is about underestimating health benefits and overestimating costs as a tactic to undermine a rule that is both protecting public health and providing business certainty. That is shameful,” Senator Carper continued.

Following his testimony, Senator Carper stood alongside environmental and public health advocates from Sierra Club, National Wildlife Federation, Moms Clean Air Force, Defend Our Future, and others to speak out against EPA’s proposal and encourage Americans to come together to protect the MATS rule. You may view that video HERE.

Below is Senator Carper’s testimony at today’s hearing, as prepared for delivery.

“Good afternoon. My name is Tom Carper, and I am the senior U.S. senator and former governor of Delaware. I also serve as ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.

“Before I was ever elected to serve as governor or senator, from 1983 to 1993, I served as Delaware’s only congressman in the U.S. House of Representatives for a decade. There, I had the privilege of working alongside the late John Dingell, when he chaired the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. Under Chairman Dingell’s leadership, we passed a number of important bills that improved our air and began to address climate change.

“None were more important, though, than the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990. Congress was quite prescient in crafting that law. Three decades ago, we knew that mercury and other air toxics, such as lead and arsenic, were hazardous to human health. We knew that air toxics built up in our bodies and could lead to cancer, mental impairment and even death. We knew that mercury pollution was especially risky for unborn children. And, we were certain that EPA much of the responsibility for leading the cleanup of our largest sources of air toxics.

“When 400 of my colleagues in the House and 89 of our colleagues in the Senate voted to send the Clean Air Amendments of 1990 to the president’s desk, I can tell you firsthand that those of us in the Congress intended for the law to ensure that our country’s largest emitters of mercury and air toxics would be required to reduce those harmful emissions over time. Sadly, 22 years would pass following our vote before power plants -- our nation’s largest sources of mercury emissions – would begin to make real progress in reducing them. With every year that our country delayed in reducing mercury power plant emissions, ever more mercury settled and accumulated in our rivers, streams and lakes, as well as in the fish we ate.

“A dozen or so years after the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 were signed into law, I began to work with Lamar Alexander, a Republican U.S. senator and former governor of Tennessee, on legislation that would have required utilities to eventually reduce mercury emissions by 90 percent. At the time, utilities told us it could not be done, or that it would be too expensive a feat to achieve. However, the companies that made the pollution control technology to curb mercury emissions testified that, indeed, it could be done and at a lower cost than most anticipated.

“When the Obama Administration finalized the MATS rule in 2012, that rule required utilities to meet a 90 percent reduction in mercury emissions. MATS also required a 50 percent reduction in other air toxic emissions. Just as they had protested the Carper-Alexander legislation, many utilities claimed seven years ago that those requirements were too stringent to meet and would lead to consumer rate spikes, mass closures and blackouts. They were wrong.

“We now know that the costs of implementing MATS were wildly overestimated, and the benefits were grossly underestimated. Today, every utility in the U.S. is in compliance with MATS. It was done faster than predicted, at a third of the costs. Consumer rates are lower than they were before MATS, and we’re already seeing the health benefits emerge.

“All of this begs the question of why we are here today?

“Why is EPA even considering a proposal that asserts it is no longer, quote, ‘appropriate and necessary’ to protect the public from one of our largest sources of mercury and air toxic emissions?  No court has called for this action. No utility is asking for this action. In fact, coal-fired utilities from across the country have joined with environmental advocacy groups, health experts, religious organizations and even the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in urging EPA not to take this step. But here we are.

“If we’ll be honest about it, most people in this room today know that the proposal before us will likely lead to the undoing of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards. By gutting the legal foundation for MATS, EPA is opening the door to future lawsuits to vacate the rule entirely.

“Despite what EPA claims, the proposal before us now is not about addressing co-benefits of the MATS rule. Rather, it is about underestimating health benefits and overestimating costs as a tactic to undermine a rule that is both protecting public health and providing business certainty. That is shameful.

“That is also why, today, Senator Lamar Alexander and I sent a letter, along with a number of Democrat and Republican senators, urging EPA to withdraw the proposal before us today.

“This proposal is harmful to public health, harmful to industry and flies in the face of what Congress intended nearly 30 years ago. 

“The people of this country whom we are sworn to protect and serve deserve better than this.  A lot better than this. I urge EPA to listen to reason and walk away from this dangerous proposal.

“Thank you.”

###