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CATF Statement on Legal Actions Defending the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards

June 19, 2020 Work Area: Power Plants

This morning, over 20 environmental, public health, and civil rights organizations have taken two legal actions to protect the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (“MATS”). The MATS rule, which was issued in 2012, is fully complied with at this point and has resulted in a 96 percent reduction in these health-harming toxic air pollutants emitted by coal- and oil-fired power plants.

The first action was to challenge, in the U.S. Court of Appeals, EPA’s recent final rule reversing its longstanding decision that it is “appropriate” to regulate hazardous air pollutant (“HAP”) emissions from coal- and oil-fired power plants. These power plants were historically the largest emitters of these extremely toxic air pollutants, including mercury, acid gases, and various carcinogens.  EPA’s rule purports to reverse the 2016 supplemental finding by the Obama Administration, which reaffirmed a finding first made in 2000 that it was “appropriate” to regulate these emissions.

“Simply put, we are challenging EPA’s unsupportable decision to reverse a decades-old finding that it was appropriate to regulate power plant emissions of these most deadly air pollutants.  EPA itself acknowledges that since it was put in place, the resulting rule has eliminated 96 percent of these air emissions, which include mercury, arsenic, cadmium and other metals and acid gases,” said Ann Weeks, Legal Director for CATF, which represents five organizations in the case.   “And equally important, while asserting that it is assessing both benefits and costs of its regulation, EPA gives no discernible weight at all to the disproportionate benefits of the MATS rule to the most vulnerable in our society:  children, tribal communities, and low-income and minority communities most likely to be living near the regulated facilities.”

In a second related action, CATF on behalf of 19 public health, environmental, and civil rights organizations, has filed a motion to intervene in a suit filed by Westmoreland Mining Holdings LLC.  That motion seeks to defend the MATS rule itself against a direct challenge by the coal industry.  About this action, Attorney Weeks said, “We will not let the coal industry take advantage of the Trump Administration’s reckless and unlawful action to put in jeopardy the health and well-being of Americans, including the most vulnerable in our society.”

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