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In a win for public health, EPA reaffirms it is “appropriate and necessary” to regulate hazardous air pollutant emissions from coal- and oil-fired power plants

February 17, 2023 Work Area: Power Plants

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released a final action reaffirming its finding under section 112 of the Clean Air Act that it is “appropriate and necessary” to regulate emissions of hazardous air pollutants (HAPs), also referred to as air toxics, from coal- and oil-fired power plants.  

“We commend the Biden Administration’s EPA for following through with its final action on regulating air toxics from coal-and oil-fired power plants—one that is long overdue and recognizes the immense public health benefits of regulating these pollutants,” said Hayden Hashimoto, attorney at Clean Air Task Force. “Now that this action has been finalized, we urge EPA to move forward with its reconsideration of the residual risk and technology review. Developments in practices and control technologies provide strong support for strengthening these standards to further reduce hazardous air pollutant emissions from power plants. Further reducing pollution from power plants will protect public health and the environment while benefiting fence-line, low-income, and historically marginalized communities.” 

The Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) rule has been tremendously successful at reducing emissions of hazardous air pollutants from coal- and oil-fired power plants at a much lower cost than EPA had projected. EPA has estimated that between 2010 and 2017—before and after compliance with MATS—mercury emissions from these plants declined by 86%, acid gas HAP emissions fell by 96%, and emissions of non-mercury metal HAPs fell by 81%. And, as EPA has recognized, the total cost of achieving these reductions in pollution was likely billions of dollars less than the agency had projected.  

“The benefits of MATS have clearly outweighed the costs, and there should be no doubt that regulation of hazardous air pollutants from coal- and oil-fired power plants is appropriate under either EPA’s preferred totality-of-the-circumstances approach, or the alternative formal benefit-cost analysis approach,” Hashimoto added. “Scientific and economic evidence strongly supports regulation of power plants under section 112, as the benefits of regulation have been many times greater than the costs based on information available at the time MATS was finalized, and even further confirmed by information that has become available since. It is important that both monetized and unmonetized benefits of regulation be considered and given significant weight, and consideration of all benefits is consistent with economic best practices.” 

Before MATS, power plants were estimated to emit the majority of hydrochloric and hydrofluoric acid in the U.S., nearly half of all anthropogenic mercury, and were the predominant sources of emissions of many metal hazardous air pollutants. Mercury is a potent neurotoxin and nine of these hazardous air pollutants have been classified as either human carcinogens or probable human carcinogens. Because people of color and people with disabilities have been more likely to live in the communities near coal- and oil-fired power plants, MATS has played an important role in addressing health disparities caused by power sector air pollution. 

Press Contact

Samantha Sadowski, Communications Manager, U.S.,, +1 202-440-1717

About Clean Air Task Force 

Clean Air Task Force (CATF) is a global nonprofit organization working to safeguard against the worst impacts of climate change by catalyzing the rapid development and deployment of low-carbon energy and other climate-protecting technologies. With 25 years of internationally recognized expertise on climate policy and a fierce commitment to exploring all potential solutions, CATF is a pragmatic, non-ideological advocacy group with the bold ideas needed to address climate change. CATF has offices in Boston, Washington D.C., and Brussels, with staff working virtually around the world. Visit and follow @cleanaircatf.

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