Win for the Clean Air Act: Court Decides EPA Can Regulate Mercury Emissions

power plants photo

A federal appeals court ruled that the EPA can regulate the emissions of large power plants in a recent and critical ruling for the environmental movement. It’s a big setback for conservative states and energy trade groups that had been challenging the power of the Clean Air Act to regulate emissions.

A three-judge panel at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that coal and oil fired power plants must be equipped with mechanisms to reduce mercury emissions by some 91 percent under the Clean Air Act.

The opposition was led by a group of conservative states including Michigan, Alaska, and Idaho that claimed the new regulations would cost $9.6 billion and 16,000 jobs in all.

“Congress was focused on the health hazard of emissions and the slowness of EPA regulation of them, and concluded it was reasonable to make decisions without considering costs,” Judge Judith W. Rogers wrote in the opinion, reported in The Washington Post. There was no congressional requirement for the agency to focus on the economic hit.

But the panel may have been swayed by groups like the American Lung Association stating that mercury regulation could prevent some 11,000 premature deaths, 5,000 heart attacks , and 130,000 asthma attacks due to polluted air.

“Today’s legal victory is another giant step forward on the road to cleaner, healthier air,” Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund said to The Hill. “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.”

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Image: Martin Nikolaj Bech