For Immediate Release

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Contact: 

Brian Willis, 202.675.2386, Brian.Willis@sierraclub.org

Wheeler and Wehrum’s Pro-Mercury Proposal Poses Direct Threat to Kids’ Health and Transparent Appeal to Old Coal Clients

WASHINGTON - The New York Times reported late yesterday that former coal lobbyist and acting Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator, Andrew Wheeler, has finalized his proposal to undermine the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS), which will increase the profits of his former coal clients and threaten the health of pregnant women and young children. MATS protects the public from mercury, arsenic, hydrochloric acid, and a variety of other toxic air pollutants, which are especially harmful to vulnerable populations like infants and mothers.  

The proposal is expected to benefit both Mr. Wheeler’s former clients -- notably, the coal company Murray Energy, who are challenging the MATS in court -- and those of EPA’s Assistant Administrator William Wehrum, who worked for years as a lawyer for coal companies. MATS requires coal- and oil-fired power plants to significantly reduce their emissions of toxic pollutants and, by doing so, safeguards American communities from the largest single source of mercury, arsenic, and a host of other dangerous substances.

The EPA estimates that the MATS protections prevent up to 11,000 premature deaths and more than 100,000 asthma attacks and heart attacks each year. EPA’s proposal, according to the Times, attempts to adjust EPA’s analysis of the standards’ benefits so as to ignore all of those public health benefits, and thereby tilt the EPA’s accounting decisively in favor of the coal industry. That maneuver -- which would permit EPA to ignore a wide swath of public health benefits, even while providing much more favorable treatment to health protections’ effects on polluters -- could undermine both MATS as well as many other public health protections.

Virtually every plant subject to MATS has already met the standard that Trump is now proposing to reconsider. For that reason, numerous utilities and manufacturers have pleaded with Wheeler to keep MATS in place.  

In response, Mary Anne Hitt, Senior Director of Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign, released the following statement:

“If finalized, this shameful plan would undermine standards that have already been widely implemented, exposing our kids to more toxic mercury and arsenic just so Andrew Wheeler and Bill Wehrum can appease a handful of their former clients in the coal industry. If anyone needed further proof that Wheeler and Wehrum are still working for coal millionaires, this is it. Any sensible, rational person would recognize these basic protections for pregnant women and young children are already working, and throwing them out is a direct attack on their health and development. But Wheeler and Wehrum are putting the interests of their former employers before logic and before the health of our kids. To make matters worse, Wheeler and Wehrum’s plan can also weaken the Clean Air Act and its enforcement. This disgraceful move by Wheeler and Wehrum directly endangers the health of our kids and we will do everything we can to stop it.”

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The Sierra Club is the oldest and largest grassroots environmental organization in the United States. It was founded on May 28, 1892 in San Francisco, California by the well-known conservationist and preservationist John Muir, who became its first president. The Sierra Club has hundreds of thousands of members in chapters located throughout the US, and is affiliated with Sierra Club Canada.

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