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PSR intervenes in lawsuit against EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics Rule

March 27, 2012

PSR has intervened in a lawsuit to defend the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s newly proposed rule to regulate mercury and air toxics from coal-fired power plants.  EPA is being sued by big polluters and their allies before the U.S. Circuit Court for the District of Columbia to strike down the Mercury and Toxics (MATS) rule.  

PSR, in intervening, takes the next step in our 21 years of action to establish this very important clean air safeguard.  The rule is necessary to protect our children’s health and prevent up to 11,000 premature deaths each year. 

The MATS standard also places the cost of containing this toxic air pollution on the energy companies, which will result in the closure of many very dirty, old plants -- a huge win for reducing carbon pollution and its impact on the climate.

With legal representation from the Southern Environmental Law Center, PSR is joined in this action by four other groups -- American Academy of Pediatrics, American Lung Association, American Nurses Association, and American Public Health Association.

The MATs rule sets official limits on toxic emissions from 600 coal- and oil-fired power plants in more than 40 states. Not only are these power plants the largest producers of mercury pollution; they also emit more than 80 of the 187 hazardous pollutants identified for control by the Clean Air Act.  Many of these pollutants, such as dioxins, arsenic, and lead, can cause cancer and cardiovascular disease. Some harm the kidneys, lungs, and nervous system. Others can kill.  

The Mercury and Air Toxics Rule is one of the single most important regulations for protecting people’s health and well-being from one of the nation’s largest industrial sources of hazardous air pollution. It sets out standards in four categories of hazardous air pollutants emitted by coal-fired and oil-fired power plants: (1) mercury; (2) filterable particulate matter, as a surrogate for non-mercury metal hazardous air pollutants; (3) hydrogen chloride (with an option to control and monitor sulfur dioxide), as a surrogate for acid gases; and (4) hazardous organic pollutants, by means of best combustion practices. 

In addition to reducing premature deaths, the EPA has estimated that the MATS rule will prevent up to 4,700 heart attacks, 130,000 asthma attacks and 5,700 hospital and emergency room visits.  This provides $3 to $9 in healthcare and economic benefits for every $1 spent on clean up.

In fact, the economic value of cleaning up mercury and toxic air pollution will be even greater, as the costs of damage to kidneys, liver or the reproductive system, or the cancers produced by these air pollutants from other toxic emissions, is not included in the calculation.

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