Trump Administration Seeks to Delay Litigation over Vital Mercury and Air Toxics Standards

EDF, Others Will Oppose Any Attempts to Weaken the Lifesaving Protections

April 18, 2017
Sharyn Stein, 202-572-3396,
(Washington, D.C. – April 18, 2017) The Trump Administration is asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to delay litigation over the lifesaving Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, which set the first-ever national limits on some of the most hazardous air pollutants emitted by power plants.

The Administration filed a motion today asking the D.C. Circuit to postpone oral argument on pending legal challenges to a final supplemental finding for the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards.

“The Mercury and Air Toxics Standards are already in place, saving thousands of lives every year, and helping protect our families and communities from toxic pollution,” said EDF Senior Attorney Graham McCahan. “Virtually every power plant in America is already in compliance with the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards. Weakening them would be a serious threat to the safety of our food, air and water. We will continue to vigorously defend these critical health protections.”

The Mercury and Air Toxics Standards reduce hazardous air pollutants – including mercury, arsenic, chromium, and hydrochloric acid gas – from power plants. These pollutants are hazardous to human health even in small doses – for instance, mercury causes brain damage in developing children; metal toxics like chromium and nickel cause cancer; and acid gases cause serious lung diseases.

In June 2015, the Supreme Court ruled that EPA should have considered the costs of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards in its initial, or threshold, decision to address these hazardous pollutants. (EPA had determined that the public health benefits of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards were up to $90 billion annually, and far exceeded compliance costs, and   EPA considered costs in establishing the pollution limits.) The Supreme Court did not overturn the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, but it did remand the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit for further consideration.

In April, 2016, EPA issued a final supplemental finding, in compliance with the Supreme Court’s directive, about the costs and benefits of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards. The supplemental finding confirmed that the cost of compliance for the standards is eminently reasonable when considered in light of the serious public health and environmental hazards of toxic emissions from power plants. Opponents then sued over the supplemental finding. That is the case now under consideration by the D.C. Circuit – the case the Trump Administration is now trying to delay.

This is the latest in a long series of steps the Trump Administration has taken to revisit a range of important public heath protections, including asking the D.C. Circuit to stop working on litigation around the Clean Power Plan, the carbon pollution standards for new, modified and reconstructed power plants, and the ground-level ozone (or smog) standards.

The Mercury and Air Toxics Standards case has already been fully briefed, and oral argument is already scheduled for a few weeks from now, on May 18th.

EDF has been advocating for these life-saving standards for years. We joined with allies to defend the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards in court every step of the way, and we are a party to the current case.

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

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