New Administration Reverses Course on Power Plant Mercury Regulations


Asks Supreme Court to drop Bush administration appeal, signals end to years of delay


David Baron, Earthjustice, (202) 841-6657
Kathleen Sutcliffe / Jared Saylor, Earthjustice, (202) 667-4500

The Obama administration signaled it will reverse course on the Bush administration’s refusal to adopt strong limits on mercury emissions from power plants, asking the Supreme Court today to drop the former administration’s appeal of a successful lawsuit by Earthjustice and others seeking protective federal mercury emission limits for power plants.

The following is a statement from Earthjustice attorney David Baron:

“Today’s news signals an end to years of attempts by the Bush administration to undermine Clean Air Act protections against mercury and comes not a moment too soon. The Bush policies have allowed coal plants to release more than 700,000 pounds of mercury pollution during the past eight years.

“Under the Clean Air Act, EPA was required to control power plants’ emissions by December, 2002. Instead of meeting that requirement, the Bush administration asked Congress to roll back the control requirements. Then, unable to win Congress’ support for that request, the administration unlawfully tried to exempt power plants from strong Clean Air Act limits.

“The federal appeals court in D.C. tossed out EPA’s attempt in February 2008, in a lawsuit brought by Earthjustice, a coalition of environmental and public health groups, states and Native American tribes. Baffled by the Bush administration’s reasons as to why it should not set these requirements, the court compared its logic to that of the dangerously irrational Queen of Hearts character in Alice in Wonderland.

“Power plants are the nation’s largest unregulated source of mercury pollution, and also emit enormous quantities of lead, arsenic and other hazardous chemicals. An estimated 1,100 coal-fired units at more than 450 existing power plants spew some 96,000 pounds of mercury into the air each year.

“We’re heartened by today’s news and hope the high court will swiftly grant the administration’s request so we can at long last begin to control toxic air emissions from this enormous industrial source of mercury.”

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