Groups Call Upon EPA to Scrap Weak Pollution Rule for Power Plants

Facilities continue to emit unhealthy levels of mercury, other pollutants


 James Pew / Jared Saylor, Earthjustice (202) 667-4500

A broad array of conservation groups, Native American Tribes, and public health organizations are calling upon EPA to stay its decision to remove coal-fired power plants from a list of industries requiring protective emission standards. EPA agreed to reconsider the decision last month, after they received petitions from 14 states, four Native American Tribes, and five environmental groups. Groups today called upon EPA to stay implementation of the decision and to “fully and fairly assess all the comments it receives and reevaluate whether the delisting was lawful and appropriate.”

“Power plants are a major source of mercury, lead, arsenic and dioxins,” said Ann Brewster Weeks, Litigation Director for Clean Air Task Force. “EPA has failed to protect the public from these harmful pollutants.  The agency should suspend its decision to deprive Americans of the protections that the Clean Air Act is supposed to guarantee.”

Instead of issuing the protective emission standards that the Clean Air Act requires, EPA has chosen to issue watered-down standards that will delay mercury reductions from power plants for nearly 20 years. Staying EPA’s decision will not delay any immediate reductions in mercury emissions, but will actually implement the faster, stronger standards required under the Clean Air Act to happen immediately.

“Mercury pollution is poisoning our lakes, rivers and streams and poses a serious health threat to millions of Americans,” said Chesapeake Bay Foundation Litigation Director Jon Mueller. “EPA needs to protect our waters and our health from power plant pollution.”

EPA’s watered down alternative standards not only relax pollution control requirements, but also create a “mercury credit” market, where facilities can trade pollution “credits,” encouraging mercury hot spots in some of the most polluted areas in the country. Three of the top five dirtiest power plants in Texas will actually be able to increase mercury outputs under this program.

“There are fish consumption warnings for the Chesapeake Bay, thanks to mercury pollution from sources such as power plants,” Mueller said. “EPA has done a pitiful job of reducing mercury from power plants with this rule.”

Last month, the State and Territorial Air Pollution Program Administrators and the Association of Local Air Pollution Control Officials (STAPPA/ALAPCO) released a model rule that provides a menu of options for states to reduce harmful mercury emissions from power plants. The model rule was written in response to EPA’s decision last March to exempt power plants from the protective emission standards that the Clean Air Act requires for all other major sources of toxic air pollution.

“We want the agency to fulfill its legal obligation to write strong nationwide regulations that will at last provide the public health and environmental protections that the Clean Air Act was enacted to guarantee,” said James Pew, an attorney with Earthjustice.

“The bottom line is this: EPA faces a choice between protecting higher profits for electric utilities and protecting children’s health,” said John Suttles, an attorney with Southern Environmental Law Center. “So far, EPA has chosen to protect profits over children.” 

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