EPA’s decision to loosen Mercury and Air Toxic Standards harms human health and the environment

Catholic Climate Covenant expresses profound disappointment in the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) weakening of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS.) The revised standards, introduced on April 16, 2020, are a direct contradiction of EPA’s mission to “protect human health and the environment.”

The Covenant echoes the position of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) which stated that the previous standards are aligned strongly with key principles of Catholic social teaching, “which calls us to care for God’s creation and protect the common good and the life and dignity of human persons, especially the poor and vulnerable, from conception until natural death.”

It is well documented that children and the unborn suffer most from the harms of mercury pollution. The previous standards drastically reduced mercury as well as other air pollutants; pollutants which disproportionately affect our nation’s most poor and vulnerable. Indeed, the Agency admits through its own analysis that its new standards will put human beings at greater harm, finding that it will cause as many as 1,400 premature deaths annually by 2030, 15,000 new cases of upper respiratory problems, a rise in bronchitis, and tens of thousands of missed school days.

Just as troubling is the EPA’s introduction of a reductionist method for calculating the costs and benefits of curbing pollution generally. It seeks to undermine the legal basis used to justify the reduction of pollutants including how they protect or harm humans. As Pope Francis stated, “the fragmentation of knowledge and the isolation of bits of information can actually become a form of ignorance, unless they are integrated into a broader vision of reality.” (Laudato Si’, no. 138.)

As our nation confronts COVID-19, a respiratory illness that also disproportionately affects our nation’s most poor and vulnerable, the EPA’s decision is ill-timed, as it places even more people living in areas with high levels of air pollution at risk. EPA’s new standards are a profound dereliction of own mission to protect human health and environment. We pray EPA will return to its core mission to “protect human health and the environment.”

The Catholic Climate Covenant helps guide the U.S. Catholic Church’s care for creation and care for the poor with our 18 national partners

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