NRCM has been involved in federal lawsuits related to limiting mercury pollution and other air toxics from power plants for over a decade. In fact, in 2004, we filed suit over the EPA’s mercury pollution rules. We first joined the suit against the Bush administration for failing to offer sufficiently strong regulations—and eventually won in 2008. The Obama administration came out with stronger rules in 2011, called the Mercury Air Toxics Standard (MATS), and we entered the lawsuit to defend them from polluter challenges in 2012. Last year the Supreme Court sent the EPA back to do more cost-benefit analysis before the rule can be truly final, which it recently completed. Within hours of the supplemental materials from the EPA being filed, polluters sued the EPA again in federal court, so we’re renewing our defense. The latest challenge comes from Murray Energy , the coal giant you may have heard about regarding all kinds of terrible stuff. (Board chairman Robert Murray is “the architect of the most serious challenge to the Obama administration’s environmental goals, particularly its policy on climate change,” reports the New York Times.)
For most of this time NRCM has been represented by lawyers from the Clean Air Task Force. NRCM’s legal “standing” that allows us to present arguments to the courts has been supported by declarations from NRCM staffer Emmie Theberge and our member and former board member Eleanor Kinney. New England coal and oil power plants, including Wyman station in Yarmouth, are affected by the mercury limits, and we are all familiar with the ways in which mercury pollution threatens our health—kids and pregnant women are especially at risk. Mercury is a neurotoxin that harms the brains of developing babies and children; pollutants like mercury are the main cause of fish consumption advisory warnings applicable to many freshwater fish species here in Maine. It also is particularly harmful to iconic wildlife like loons. Coal power plants are now the largest source of mercury pollution in the U.S. When fully implemented, MATS will prevent up to 11,000 deaths and tens of thousands of other serious health problems each year. You can visit the mercury and birds web page we created a few years ago in response to the release of a special report; that information is still relevant.
A motion to intervene was recently filed on our behalf, in the new chapter of this case. We hope and expect that, now that the EPA has dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s according to last year’s Supreme Court ruling, that the rules can finally stand. In practice, many power plants have already made changes to comply with the mercury rules.
NRCM continues to stand up to polluters like coal power plants who want to continue to dump toxic mercury into our air and water, harming our families, wildlife and way of life.
by NRCM Climate and Clean Energy Project Director Dylan Voorhees
Related Link: Read 2004 NRCM news release about this lawsuit.