U.S. Court of Appeals Upholds Historic EPA Protections to Limit Mercury and Toxic Air Pollution from Power Plants

April 15, 2014
Vickie Patton, 720-837-6239, vpatton@edf.org
Keith Gaby, 202-572-3336, kgaby@edf.org


(Washington, D.C. – April 15, 2014) The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled in favor of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) landmark Mercury and Air Toxics Standards today. EDF was a party to the case and EDF’s counsel Sean Donahue presented oral argument in defense of these vital health protections. Chief Judge Merrick Garland and Judge Judith Rogers denied and dismissed the legal challenges. Judge Brett Kavanaugh dissented in part.

The decision upholds EPA’s efforts to set the first-ever national limits on some of the most dangerous types of air pollution emitted by power plants, including mercury, arsenic and acid gases.

“Today’s legal victory is another giant step forward on the road to cleaner, healthier air,” said Fred Krupp, president of Environmental Defense Fund, which was a party to the case. “Today, the court recognized that mercury and other dangerous air toxins from coal-fired power plants are a threat to public health, and that we should all be protected from them. Now we must complete the essential work to achieve these clean air protections for our children and for all Americans.”

The Mercury and Air Toxics Standards are the result of a decades-long effort to ensure power plants clean up the mercury and other dangerous substances that can be spewed into the atmosphere when coal and oil are burned for power.

Power plants are responsible for half of the mercury pollution, two-thirds of the arsenic emissions, and three quarters of the acid gases emitted in America. Those substances are all highly toxic to humans; mercury, in particular, is linked to brain damage in children.

EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards would prevent 11,000 premature deaths, 4,700 heart attacks and 130,000 asthma attacks every year. Every dollar spent on complying with the rule will result in nine dollars in health benefits for Americans.

Industry and other groups challenged the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards. EPA defended them, along with a coalition of 16 states and the District of Columbia, industry leaders, medical and public health advocates, and environmental organizations – including EDF.

Chief Judge Merrick Garland, Judge Brett Kavanaugh and Judge Judith Rogers of the D.C. Circuit Court heard arguments in the case on December 10, 2013.

You can find more about the history of the case and all the legal briefs on EDF’s website.

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