WASHINGTON D.C. — Today, a coalition of state and national public health and environmental groups, including the Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM), filed a lawsuit [attached] in federal court here, seeking a firm and enforceable new deadline for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to require deep reductions in mercury and other toxic air pollutants emitted from coal- and oil-fired power plants. Power plants are the nation’s largest unregulated source of mercury pollution, and also emit enormous quantities of lead, arsenic and other hazardous chemicals.
The Clean Air Act required the federal government to issue final standards for power plant emissions of mercury and other hazardous pollutants by December 2002. Those rules would have been effective at new facilities immediately, and by December 2005 at existing facilities. The Bush Administration first stalled, and then issued weak rules allowing mercury trading, which were struck down entirely by the D.C. federal appellate court earlier this year.
The lawsuit was filed today in DC District Court by attorneys at Clean Air Task Force and Earthjustice on behalf of NRCM. Ten other environmental and public health organizations joined in the suit.
“Children and women of childbearing age are at risk when power plants emit the levels of mercury they are emitting today – all 50 states, and one US territory, have declared fish advisories warning about mercury contamination,” said NRCM’s Clean Production Project Director Matt Prindiville. “Maine loons, fish, eagles, and other wildlife are also contaminated. It is well past time to require dirty, old coal plants to clean up their acts and stop spewing so much mercury pollution.”
“We are far past both the legal and, indeed, the moral deadline for EPA to take action to require significant controls on mercury and the many other toxic air pollutants emitted by power plants,” said Ann Weeks, of the Clean Air Task Force, who represents NRCM. “While we are forced to seek a deadline in court, because of the Bush Administration’s intransigence, we are hopeful that the Obama Administration will act quickly to mandate the deep cuts that the Clean Air Act requires.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, eight percent of American women of childbearing age have mercury in their bodies at levels high enough to put their babies at risk of birth defects, loss of IQ, learning disabilities and developmental problems. Mercury contamination has also been demonstrated to cause serious impacts to wildlife, including behavioral and reproductive damage.