Polluters Continue Legal Challenges over Mercury and Air Toxics Standards

Lawsuit against EPA’s Supplemental Finding Filed Just Hours after Publication

April 25, 2016
Sharyn Stein, 202-572-3396, sstein@edf.org

(Washington, D.C. – April 25, 2015) Today, mere hours after supplemental findings for the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards were officially published, the first lawsuit was filed to block them.

Murray Energy Corporation today asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to review the final action taken by the United States Environmental Protection Agency on the life-saving clean air protections. 

“Polluters are wasting no time trying to obstruct the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, which protect American families from some of the most deadly types of air pollution,” said Graham McCahan, Senior Attorney for Environmental Defense Fund. “EPA’s final finding confirms that the standards are a cost-effective step to address the enormous public health hazards of mercury, arsenic, acid gases and other toxic air pollution. We look forward to continuing our vigorous support of these vitally important protections.”

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. When fully implemented, the Mercury Standards will prevent up to 11,000 deaths and tens of thousands of other serious health problems each year.

When EPA wrote 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 pollutants. EPA had considered costs in establishing the resulting emissions standards. (EDF was a party to the case.) 

Earlier this month, EPA fulfilled the Supreme Court’s directives with a final 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.

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 has grown. 

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

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