HomeWashington Letter2014 ▶ Federal Court of Appeals Affirms EPA Mercury Air Toxics Rule
Federal Court of Appeals Affirms EPA Mercury Air Toxics Rule

April 2014

This week, the DC District Court of Appeals rejected industry challenges to the EPA's Mercury Air Toxics rule.  The rule, completed in 2011, set the first-ever national standards for mercury and other toxic air pollution from coal- and oil-fired power plants. It was first mandated by Congress in 1990 but delayed by litigation, lobbying and legislative fights. The appeals court upheld the EPA's position that its regulations were appropriate and necessary and rejected industry arguments that the costs of regulation should have been considered before the rule was implemented.

The EPA estimates that the rule will prevent 11,000 premature deaths, 4,700 heart attacks and 130,000 asthma attacks every year. It will require coal- and oil-fired power plants to install commercially available pollution control equipment to reduce emissions of mercury, acid gases and heavy metals such as arsenic, lead, cadmium and nickel into the air.

The ATS submitted an amicus curiae or "friend of the court" brief to the District Court summarizing the known health effects of exposure to mercury and other air toxics and urged the court to support EPA's rule.

"As a society of health care professionals who specialize in pulmonary and critical care medicine, the ATS whole-heartedly supports the Mercury and Toxics Rule," said Patricia Finn, MD, president of the American Thoracic Society and chairman of the Department of Medicine at the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Chicago. "The effects are not just theoretical; our membership encounters individuals every day whose health is compromised, or whose lives are lost, because of these toxic pollutants."

Last Reviewed: October 2017