Chair Castor Blasts Trump & Wheeler Move To Gut Clean Air Safeguards Amid Pandemic

Apr 16, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON (April 16, 2020) - Chair Kathy Castor (D-FL) of the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis released the following statement on Thursday, amid reports that EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler will finalize a proposal to undermine the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) in the middle of the coronavirus public health crisis:

“Even as our nation battles a virus that ravages the lungs and can cause lethal respiratory issues, the Trump administration is shamefully dismantling more clean air protections that safeguard Americans,” said Chair Castor. “We now know that air pollution is associated with higher COVID death rates. But that didn't stop President Trump and EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist, from gutting the lifesaving Mercury and Air Toxics Standards today. 

“The Trump administration is harming the health of millions of Americans by weakening these environmental safeguards, which have significantly reduced the release of toxic mercury and other dangerous pollutants into the air we breathe. Today's widely-opposed move by Administrator Wheeler could cause up to 130,000 more asthma attacks in the United States every year, and up to 11,000 more premature deaths, according to the EPA's own analysis. It also would let polluters release toxins into the air that can harm brain development and lead to learning disabilities in children. The move conflicts with scientific findings on the subject, but the Trump administration often fails to follow evidence to safeguard public health.

Once again, I call on President Trump and Administrator Wheeler to value families' health over the profits of polluters, especially as we face an unprecedented public health crisis. The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the importance of ensuring clean air in every community and underscored the need to ensure environmental justice for vulnerable Americans. Rolling back these clean air protections will harm American children and families for decades to come.”


  • The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) prevent between 4,200 to 11,000 premature deaths in the United States every year, as well as up to 130,000 asthma attacks. (link)
  • In May 2019, Chair Castor led her House colleagues in a letter to Administrator Wheeler, urging him to oppose any action that could undermine or weaken the standards. “Plain and simple, mercury pollution poses a severe threat to public health, with even low levels of exposure causing life-long impacts,” she said in the letter. (link)
  • Much of the power industry has also expressed opposition to weakening the MATS safeguards. In a 2018 letter, several industry groups urged the Trump administration "to leave the underlying MATS rule in place and effective," highlighting the industry's vital investments in meeting the clean air standards. (link)


116th Congress