First Legal Brief Filed in Latest Attack against the Life-Saving Mercury and Air Toxics Standards

November 21, 2016
Sharyn Stein, 202-572-3396,

(Washington, D.C. – November 21, 2016) Coal companies, coal-based power companies, and their allies have filed their opening legal brief in the latest attack against the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards – a life-saving clean air measure that is already implemented and successfully protecting children across America from brain damage and adults from other serious illnesses.

“The Mercury and Air Toxics Standards are already in place, cost-effective, and vitally important for protecting the health of American families from some of the most deadly types of air pollution,” said Graham McCahan, Senior Attorney for Environmental Defense Fund. “It is time for polluters and their allies to stop attacking these critical clean air safeguards that protect our children – and all Americans – from the single largest source of toxic air pollution.” 

EDF is a party to the case, and will join a broad coalition of supporters to defend the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards in court.

The Mercury and Air Toxics Standards set the first-ever national limits on hazardous air pollutants – including mercury, arsenic, chromium, and hydrochloric acid gas – from power plants, the largest source of those pollutants. 

The pollutants covered by the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards are dangerous to human health even in small doses — mercury causes brain damage in infants and children, metal toxics like chromium and nickel cause cancer, and acid gases cause respiratory problems. The Mercury Standards will prevent up to 11,000 deaths and tens of thousands of other serious health problems each year.

The standards are already in place, protecting Americans from dangerous pollutants. And since 2011, major power companies have dramatically reduced their estimates of the costs to comply with the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, while the body of scientific evidence supporting them continues to grow. However, polluters and their allies continue suing to stop them. 

When EPA issued the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards in 2011, it found that the public health benefits of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards were up to $90 billion annually, and far exceeded compliance costs. However, in June 2015, a sharply divided Supreme Court ruled 5-to-4 that EPA should have also considered the costs in its initial, or threshold, decision to regulate these hazardous emissions from power plants. EPA had considered costs in establishing the resulting emissions standards. (EDF was a party to the case.)

EPA then fulfilled the Supreme Court’s directives with a final supplemental finding confirming that the cost of compliance for the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards is eminently reasonable when considered in light of the serious public health and environmental hazards of toxic emissions from power plants. Polluters and states challenged the final finding; this latest brief, which was filed on Friday, is the first merits briefs in that lawsuit. 

You can find more about the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, including all legal briefs, on EDF’s website. 

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