Thursday, April 17, 2014

Appeals court upholds new EPA rules on mercury and other toxins emitted by coal-fired power plants

More than three years after the Environmental Protection Agency issued limits on mercury and other toxic substances coming from coal-fired power plants, a federal appeals court on Tuesday upheld the decision. The three-judge panel denied "challenges from states, utilities and industry groups that argued the rules came out of a flawed regulatory process and illegally imposed exorbitant costs on power producers that will force dozens of power plants to shut down," Erica Martinson reports for Politico.

"The court upheld EPA’s decision to take into account environmental damage from the pollutants, rather than just health-based harms, when it decided to regulate. And the agency based its decision on the impacts of hazardous pollution broadly, rather than just emissions from power plants — a commonsense approach,' wrote Judge Judith Rogers, to 'statutory ambiguity' that was within the bounds of EPA’s discretion."

EPA originally determined in December 2000 "that it was 'appropriate and necessary' to regulate hazardous air pollutants from coal- and oil-fired power plants under Section 112 of the Clean Air Act," Martinson writes. "The George W. Bush administration reversed that decision in 2005, but . . . a court that ruled the move was unlawful." The Obama administration pushed for a new rule, which EPA issued in December 2011.

EPA spokeswoman Liz Purchia said the ruling "will keep in place a rule the agency has said will eliminate 90 percent of coal-fired power plants’ mercury pollution, 88 percent of their acid gas emissions and 41 percent of sulfur dioxide emissions," Martinson writes. EPA says "The standards 'will save thousands of lives each year, prevent heart and asthma attacks, while slashing emissions of the neurotoxin mercury, which can impair children’s ability to learn.'" (Read more)

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