AG Jepsen Welcomes Federal Court Ruling in Support of
EPA Standards on Mercury and Toxic Air Pollutants
The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit this week upheld the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) federal Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) against numerous challenges brought in federal court, a decision that Attorney General George Jepsen today praised.
In 2012, various industry groups brought cases challenging the standards, which were designed to reduce mercury emissions by the electric power industry. Connecticut had joined with fifteen other states, the District of Columbia and four cities – all led by Massachusetts and California – to intervene in the case in support of EPA, arguing that the states had a long-standing interest in protecting public health and the environment from mercury contamination and that the standards are essential, as individual states have no control over out-of-state emissions.
"Many states have taken significant steps to reduce emissions within their borders, but state standards do vary and Connecticut has no control over out-of-state emissions," said Attorney General Jepsen. "Mercury is highly toxic, and mercury emissions are a national problem requiring a national standard to protect public health and the environment. The decision this week upholding EPA's regulations, which require strict pollution controls, is a critically important and welcome decision for Connecticut and the entire country."
In its ruling, the Court of Appeals upheld the validity of EPA's determination that regulation of hazardous air pollutant emissions from power plants under the Clean Air Act was "appropriate and necessary." The court deferred to EPA's interpretation of the act's language and rejected industry attempts to impose additional preconditions on EPA's ability to regulate.
In particular, the court affirmed EPA's decision to evaluate environmental effects alongside health effects, and its "commonsense approach" to considering the cumulative impacts of hazardous air pollutant emissions. The opinion also affirms that EPA need not consider costs in setting these regulations, the necessity of which are based on a Congressionally mandated study of public health hazards posed by power plant emissions.
Mercury is a potent neurotoxin that poses significant danger to humans, especially to developing fetuses and children, and to wildlife. When airborne mercury is deposited into water, it can change into methylmercury, a highly toxic form of mercury that accumulates in the food chain, especially in fish.
Electric power plants are the largest domestic source of mercury emissions and other hazardous air pollutants in the United States. The MATS rule allows existing sources three years to comply and permits two additional years in certain cases. EPA estimates that the value of the health benefits of the MATS rule will range from $37 to $90 billion annually.
Assistant Attorneys General Matthew Levine, Scott Koschwitz and Kimberly Massicotte, head of the Environment Department, with Associate Attorney General Joseph Rubin, assisted the Attorney General with this matter.
Jaclyn M. Falkowski