LCV’s Matthew Davis Testifies at EPA hearing: Strengthening Mercury and Air Toxics Standards for Power Plants

On May 9, 2023 LCV's Vice President of Federal Policy and former EPA Health Scientist Matthew Davis testified in favor of strengthening the mercury and air toxics standards for power plants.
May 10, 2023

Hello, and thank you for the chance to comment today. My name is Matthew Davis, and I am Vice President of Federal Policy for the League of Conservation Voters or LCV.

LCV builds political power to shape a better world with clean air, clean water, accessible public lands, and a safe climate, protected by a just and equitable democracy. Over the last 50 years, LCV has grown to have more than a million members, 33 state affiliates, and grassroots and community organizing programs across the country.

We strongly support strengthening the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) for power plants as part of the Clean Air Act’s statutorily mandated residual risk and technology review of the original MATS. We appreciate EPA taking this step and particularly proposing to require continuous emissions monitoring across the sector, which can be a critical tool for enforcement and providing information to frontline communities. While we support the proposal to close the loophole for lignite coal power plants that has particularly put communities in the upper Midwest at risk, it would likely contribute little towards real world emissions reductions since most lignite plants are already meeting the standard for other plants. We encourage EPA to further strengthen the filterable particulate matter limit to 0.006 lb/MMBtu across all facilities in order to adequately protect our health, especially the health of children and babies in power plant fenceline neighborhoods, Indigenous subsistence communities, and sport fish-eating families.  

Prior to working at LCV, I worked at EPA for nearly a decade, primarily as a Health Scientist in the Office of Children’s Health Protection. I am proud to have helped on the MATS finalized in 2012, which has successfully reduced mercury and other toxic emissions from coal- and oil-fired power plants. These pollution standards have delivered large health benefits and have saved lives from reducing mercury and air toxic emissions and co-pollutants like particulate matter. But power plants are still the largest source of mercury and other toxic pollution in the U.S. And mercury emissions from power plants increased 13% in 2021, according to EPA estimates. Mercury and hazardous air pollution can and should be further reduced by installing updated technologies or further maximizing controls – technologies have improved since 2012. And in that time, we have only learned more about the damaging health effects from coal combustion pollution; mercury, hydrogen cyanide, arsenic, particulate matter, chromium, cadmium and other toxicants effect peoples’ health and lives, particularly in communities of color or communities of low wealth that are more likely to be nearest to polluting power plants.

Tighter mercury standards are critically important for the healthy brain development of babies and children, particularly in low wealth fish-eating families and families of subsistence fishers – whether they live in Hmong immigrant communities in Minnesota or rural sport-fishing communities in Michigan or Indigenous communities in Tennessee. And the EPA’s own analysis of their proposal indicates billions in net benefits over the next 10 years, and tighter limits that you’re taking comment on, and that we endorse, could deliver even greater benefits to the public.  To reiterate, we appreciate EPA taking action to update the MATS and encourage EPA to finalize a tighter rule, with a .0006 lb/MMBtu filterable PM limit, alongside the proposed continuous emissions monitoring requirements, closing the lignite plants loophole.