On December 28, the Environmental Protection Agency announced a proposal that would effectively weaken the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS), which protect American families from mercury and other harmful air pollutants emitted by power plants. These regulations save a lot of lives — 11,000 every year, according to the EPA’s own data — and they prevent 130,000 asthma attacks annually. Stripping this regulatory power virtually guarantees more asthma attacks and more preventable deaths.
Steve Fobister Sr., an elder at Grassy Narrows First Nation suffering from mercury poisoning, ended his hunger strike on Wednesday morning. Fobister announced the hunger strike at a news conference on Monday, in Toronto, stating that he hoped his protest would help to draw attention to the issue of mercury contamination in his community. The news conference called on the Ontario and Canadian governments to acknowledge that Grassy Narrows residents continue to suffer from mercury poisoning four decades after a Dryden paper mill dumped the toxin into the Wabigoon-English River system. On Tuesday, Ontario Minister of Aboriginal Affairs David Zimmer issued a statement expressing concern about Fobister's health and promising to "champion a review of the Mercury Disability Board, to determine how best to help those with mercury-related health issues." Grassy Narrows has said many mercury poisoning victims have been denied compensation, partly because the board is using 30-year-old science to determine who is affected and eligible for a claim. Zimmer also said he "agreed the government would explore the options for more on-site treatment for Grassy Narrows First Nation residents" and that he would visit the community on August 6. In a statement posted Wednesday on freegrassy.net, a Grassy Narrows' advocacy website, Fobister said he ended his hunger strike so he could "live and continue to fight for Grassy Narrows, for all aboriginal people, and for environmental justice."