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July 19, 2011

639,000+ Americans Want Strong Mercury Safeguards

Mercury Delivery speech

Today, a crowd gathered in Boston outside the Environmental Protection Agency Region 1 office to deliver more than 639,000 comments calling for strong mercury safeguards (they must've made the above banner before the final count!).

These comments, collected from every state in the nation, support the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in their efforts to curb dangerous mercury pollution from coal-fired power plants. A coalition of more than 200 health, environmental and social justice organizations -  including the Sierra Club - worked together to make this impressive show of support possible.

And this huge delivery of comments could not have happened without you, loyal Sierra Club supporters. We helped gather thousands and thousands and thousands of comments on our own mercury website for the EPA.

Mercury DeliveryAnd EPA appreciates it -- check out this quote from today's event up in Boston:

"This tremendous response signals that Americans know how important it is to cut down on mercury, arsenic and other dangerous pollutants in the air we breathe," said Curt Spalding, Regional Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Region 1 office in Boston.

"Not only will these safeguards prevent thousands of premature deaths and cases of asthma and other illnesses, they will level the playing field for power plants already using widely available clean technology. We're relying on the continued input of New Englanders, and all Americans, to help us make these vital safeguards a reality."

Not bad, America!

The mercury safeguards proposed by the EPA represent a strong standard that will for the first time cut mercury emissions from power plants nationwide by 91 percent, reduce arsenic and acid gases by 91 percent, prevent 12,200 trips to the hospital, and save up to 17,000 lives each year once it is implemented.

Mercury Delivery crowd

More than 200 organizations have encouraged the EPA to ensure that their proposed mercury safeguards remain strong enough to protect the health of children and mothers. Some of the national organizations who participated were: Alliance for Climate Protection, Democracia, Inc, Environment America, Environment Defense Fund, Greenpeace, Health Care Without Harm, Interfaith Power and Light, League of Women Voters, League of Conservation Voters, National Wildlife Federation, Physicians for Social Responsibility, The Sierra Club and U.S. Climate Action Network.

Coal-fired power plants are the single largest source of mercury pollution, arsenic and acid gases, and account for 25 percent of all toxic metal emissions in the United States. Furthermore, coal-fired power plants are responsible for 99 percent of all mercury emissions from the power sector in the United States.

"With thousands of birth defects and premature deaths related to poor air quality, it's no surprise that more than 639,000 comments were gathered from Americans from all walks of life. Today, we come together to call on the EPA to clean up our air and protect our families' health," said Ben Wright, an advocate with Environment Massachusetts.

Mercury regulations in particular will benefit inner city residents, especially minority communities.

"Race, rather than income, is the No. 1 predictor of whether a person is located near a polluting facility, meaning that people of color are most likely to be exposed to the toxic air pollution coming from these plants. Fortunately, when this standard is implemented, people of color will reap the rewards of cleaner air and less toxic pollution by seeing lower health care costs, fewer asthma attacks, and healthier communities," said Juan Cofield, President of the NAACP, New England Area Conference.

Find out more about the air quality of your neighborhood and take our quiz to find out how much coal is in your life.

-- Heather Moyer. Photos by Devin Dobbins-McCarthy

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