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Lives On The Line: Mercury Standard & Power Plants

A mother watches over her child during treatment for asthma.

A mother watches over her child during treatment for asthma.

Chris Jordan-Bloch / Earthjustice

What's at Stake

The Mercury and Air Toxics Standards will annually prevent up to 11,000 premature deaths, and nearly 5,000 heart attacks and 130,000 asthma attacks.

A decision for the coal industry would mean thousands of people across our country would continue to die unnecessary, premature deaths—all to protect the profits of the worst corporate polluters.

Case Overview

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency exempted power plants from Clean Air Act regulations, even though these power plants emit into the air tons of mercury and other toxins—known threats to human health.

In 2012, after more than a decade of Earthjustice litigation on behalf of community, environmental and public health groups, the EPA released protections that will clean up toxic air emissions from power plants across the country, the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS).

MATS will annually prevent up to 11,000 premature deaths, nearly 5,000 heart attacks and 130,000 asthma attacks, and more than 540,000 missed days of work days. MATS will reduce mercury emissions by 75%, protecting babies and children from exposures to mercury than can damage their ability to develop and learn. The EPA has estimated that every year, more than 300,000 newborns face elevated risk of learning disabilities due to exposure to mercury in the womb.

In April 2014, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit upheld MATS. Industry appealed and on March 25, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in industry's challenge to MATS. The coal industry and its allies are claiming that EPA cannot decide whether to protect the public and the environment from toxic air pollution without first considering the effect on the industry’s bottom line.

A decision for the coal industry would mean thousands of people across our country would continue to die unnecessary, premature deaths—all to protect the profits of the worst corporate polluters. Many responsible power plants have already reduced their pollution, and several of those companies are supporting MATS in court. As those companies said in a Supreme Court filing in EPA’s defense, MATS put an end to the “free ride” enjoyed by the worst polluters.

National Mining Association v. EPA A collection of resources on the U.S. Supreme Court case
 
Power plants likely covered by the Mercury & Air Toxics Standards.
Interactive

Meet the Power Plants

 
Media Inquiries

Phillip Ellis Earthjustice Press Secretary

pellis@earthjustice.org
(202) 745-5221

Case ID

3532

Case Updates

March 18, 2015 | Feature

Photos: Life Under The Stacks

Coal plant pollution has a serious impact on our health. Every year, it causes exacerbated asthma, heart problems, and worst of all, premature death. Two Pennsylvanians share what it means to live in the shadow of a smokestack and in the specter of a plume.

March 12, 2015 | Feature

In Conversation: Attorney Jim Pew

Attorney Jim Pew speaks about his work and National Mining Association v. EPA, the U.S. Supreme Court case that will determine whether the EPA must consider profits over people when regulating toxic air pollution.

March 11, 2015 | Feature

Map: Meet the Power Plants

Power plants are the largest source of toxic air pollution in the nation. Their pollution is linked to asthma, heart attacks—and thousands of premature deaths each year. There are more than 580 power plants likely covered by the Mercury & Air Toxics Standards. See where they are located.

March 9, 2015 | Feature

Important Legal Issues Raised By National Mining Association v. EPA

This summer, the U.S. Supreme Court will rule on a critical case involving mercury and other toxic air pollution from coal-fired power plants. At stake are up to 11,000 lives a year, and a very dangerous precedent that industry profits are more important than people.

March 9, 2015 | Feature

At the Supreme Court: Profits Before People?

This summer, the U.S. Supreme Court will rule on a critical case involving mercury and other toxic air pollution from coal-fired power plants. Up to 11,000 lives hang in the balance, many of whom are from overburdened communities.

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Related Features

At the Supreme Court: Profits Before People?

This summer, the U.S. Supreme Court will rule on a critical case involving mercury and other toxic air pollution from coal-fired power plants. Up to 11,000 lives hang in the balance, many of whom are from overburdened communities.

In the Shadow of the Stacks

Hear from attorney Jim Pew, who has worked for more than a decade to clean up coal plants, and two Pennsylvanians—Marti Blake and Martin Garrigan—who know firsthand what it means to live in the shadow of a smokestack and the specter of a plume.

Photos: Life Under The Stacks

Coal plant pollution has a serious impact on our health. Every year, it causes exacerbated asthma, heart problems, and worst of all, premature death. Two Pennsylvanians share what it means to live in the shadow of a smokestack and in the specter of a plume.