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Coal, Mining Interests File Suit to Block Landmark Mercury Regs

Bill DiBenedetto | Friday February 17th, 2012 | 0 Comments

Sooner or later you knew it would happen: a Big Coal move to stop the EPA’s landmark decision to regulate emissions of mercury, lead and other toxic pollutants from coal- and oil-fired plants.

The first shot against the regulations was filed Thursday by the National Mining Association in a petition filed at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. NMA members are a veritable who’s who of coal, transportation and mining companies, including Arch Coal, ArcelorMittal, Chevron Mining and various coal-state associations.

The NMA sounds a typical refrain—the energy grid security card—in its petition. In a statement, Hal Quinn, the association’s president and CEO said,

EPA has dangerously underestimated the impact of the Utility MACT and related rules on the reliability of the nation’s electricity grid. Within a matter of weeks of the final rule’s unveiling, the announced retirements of electricity plants already exceeds EPA’s dubious estimate. These announcements demonstrate the cruel reality of EPA’s regulatory agenda—less reliability, higher costs to consumers and businesses and lost employment.

Environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, Earthjustice, Environmental Defense Fund, Clean Air Task Force, National Resources Defense Council and the Southern Environmental Law Center quickly counter-punched.

Today’s attack by corporate polluter front groups on the health of American families and the safety of prenatal babies and young children is outrageous and contemptible, but it’s no surprise,” said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club. “The country’s dirtiest polluters want to keep their license to pollute the air we breathe and the water we drink without limits or consequences.  It’s time to put an end to that pollution spree, and protect American children from toxic mercury pollution.

The EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, released in December, are the first national standards to protect American families from power plant emissions of mercury and toxic air pollution such as arsenic, acid gas, nickel, selenium, and cyanide.

Power plants are the largest remaining source of those pollutants; they are responsible for one-half of the mercury and more than 75 percent of acid gas emissions in the U.S. “The standards will slash emissions of these dangerous pollutants by relying on widely available, proven pollution controls that are already in use at more than half of the nation’s coal-fired power plants,” EPA said.

In addition to NMA’s legal attack, reports said that Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma has also introduced a legislative maneuver to nullify the EPA protections.

Big Coal and its allies just don’t get it and probably never will. But here’s a modest suggestion: Instead of spending millions in a cynical and obscene attempt to stop one of the most important public health measures ever, why not, as Fred Krupp, president of EDF said, spend that money to reduce mercury emissions and protect the health of their customers? What a novel concept.

[Image credit: Gibson Station at night, Duke Energy, via Flickr cc]


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