Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Coal Fired Power: National Mercury Limits Remain Supremes Remand Case Back to Court of Appeals

WASHINGTON, DC  –  Yesterday, in a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court remanded the first-ever national airborne limits on mercury and other toxic power plant air pollution back to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals and the EPA. The Supremes found that even though the EPA demonstrated that health and environmental benefits would save between 4 and 11 thousand lives a year, and that the air standards far outweighed the costs to industry, the EPA should have considered the cost earlier in the process.

The Court left the standards in place pending consideration by the court below.

The good news is that since April 2015, the majority of the nation's power plants are already in compliance with the higher standards.

The EPA has already evaluated the costs and benefits and the agency should be able to provide the lower court with the cost analysis quickly.

Key conclusions by the EPA

The Supremes did not reject the following key conclusions:

• Power plants are far and away the worst industrial polluters.
• Controlling toxic emissions is both technologically and economically feasible.
• The resulting pollution reductions will yield between $37 billion and $90 billion in health benefits every year.
• The public will receive $3–$9 in health benefits for every $1 that the protections cost the power industry.

More than 4 million women are exposed to mercury at levels harmful for fetal brain development. The standards will reduce mercury pollution from coal-fired power plants by 75 percent.

Florida contains 12 coal-fired power plants; 11 oil-fired power plants; 3 coal/oil-fired power plants. They are likely covered by the Mercury & Air Toxics Standards.

Additionally, one in 20 Americans is killed by air pollution, and coal-fired power plants are a big part of the problem. These plants are by far the largest industrial source of toxic air pollution, responsible for 50 percent of total U.S. emissions of mercury – a potent neurotoxin particularly dangerous to children.


Earthjustice, on behalf of Sierra Club, Clean Air Council, Chesapeake Bay Foundation and the NAACP, helped defend these health safeguards as respondent-intervenors.

Lisa Garcia, Earthjustice Vice President of Litigation for Healthy Communities said, "The Supreme Court’s decision does not change the importance of EPA’s role in protecting our families and communities from toxic air pollution. The Court gave EPA the ability to finalize these critical public health protections once and for all. Now, EPA must act quickly. Thousands of lives are at stake. Further delay is not an option.”

Photo of power plant: FlaglerLive

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