EDF, Allies Ask Court to Reject Trump EPA’s Finding that Coal Plant Mercury Standards Don’t Need to Be Stronger

July 21, 2020
Sharyn Stein, 202-572-3396, sstein@edf.org

(Washington, D.C. – July 21, 2020) EDF and a coalition of public health and environmental advocates are challenging the Trump EPA’s claim that our current Mercury and Air Toxics Standards for coal-fired power plants are adequate to protect public health.

The groups filed a petition for review of the agency’s “residual risk and technology review” in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. EDF is also part of a separate lawsuit opposing the Trump EPA’s effort to undermine the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards themselves.

“The Mercury and Air Toxics Standards help protect babies and young children from brain damage, protect adults from cancer and lung disease, and save 11,000 lives each year. However, there is still more work to do to protect Americans from toxic air pollution – especially Black, Indigenous, and People of Color who are more likely to live near pollution sources and suffer a disproportionate risk,” said EDF attorney Liana James. “The Mercury and Air Toxics Standards are vital for safeguarding Americans’ health, but the facts show they should be even stronger and more protective as required by law.

The Mercury and Air Toxics Standards are the first-ever national policy to reduce the emission of hazardous pollutants – including mercury, arsenic, lead, chromium, nickel, and acid gases – from coal-burning power plants.

In April, the Trump administration took two actions regarding the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards. Both were published in the same Federal Register notice. One was the “residual risk and technology review,” which found the standards were “acceptable” to protect public health and thus no further safeguards were necessary. The other was the “reconsideration of the supplemental finding” which reversed EPA’s own finding, based on a large and robust scientific and technical record, that the regulation of mercury and other toxic emissions is “appropriate and necessary.”

EDF and its allies filed a lawsuit in the D.C. Circuit in June opposing EPA’s rollback of the supplemental finding. EDF is also opposing a lawsuit filed by Westmoreland Mining Holdings, a coal mining company, that is seeking to use the Trump EPA’s supplemental finding rollback to topple the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards themselves.

The latest lawsuit opposes the Trump EPA’s residual risk and technology review on the grounds that the agency used unreliable data that omits the emissions of some dangerous pollutants and understates others. The agency also did not account for health risks during times when coal-fired power plants cycle and are started or shut down – times when the plants release significantly more pollution. EPA’s residual risk and technology review must adequately address all toxic air pollution from coal-and oil-fired power plants in order to provide an ample margin of safety to protect human health.

EDF was joined on this filing by Air Alliance Houston, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Clean Air Council, Downwinders at Risk, Environmental Integrity Project, Montana Environmental Information Center, Sierra Club and Texas Campaign for the Environment.

# # #

Environmental Defense Fund (edf.org), a leading international nonprofit organization, creates transformational solutions to the most serious environmental problems. EDF links science, economics, law and innovative private-sector partnerships. Connect with us on EDF Voices, Twitter and Facebook.