Enviros Sue EPA rules to cut power plant air pollution

Washington, DC -- A coalition of public health and
environmental groups filed a lawsuit in federal court here,
seeking a firm and enforceable new deadline for 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. If
successful, the lawsuit would end six years of delay by the Bush

Attorneys at Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF), Clean Air Task
Force, Earthjustice, Natural Resources Defense Council, Southern
Environmental Law Center, and Waterkeeper Alliance filed the
lawsuit today in DC District Court on behalf of American Nurses
Association, CBF, Conservation Law Foundation, Environment
America, Environmental Defense Fund, Izaak Walton League of
America, Natural Resources Council of Maine, Natural Resources
Defense Council, The Ohio Environmental Council, Physicians for
Social Responsibility, Sierra Club, and Waterkeeper Alliance.

Today's lawsuit follows President-elect Barack Obama's
appointment of Lisa Jackson to head the agency. Groups expressed
hope that the incoming administration will take a new approach
to regulating pollution from power plants and act quickly to
bring the problem under control.

"We are far past both the legal and, indeed, the moral deadline
for EPA to take action to control toxic air emissions from this
enormous industrial source of mercury and other poisons," said
Clean Air Task Force attorney Ann B. Weeks. "At the same time we
are hopeful that the Obama administration will act quickly to
mandate the deep cuts in this pollution, as the Clean Air Act

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.

"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 John Suttles, senior
attorney, Southern Environmental Law Center. "It is time to
require deep reductions from this industry."

Under the Clean Air Act, EPA was required to control power
plants' emissions by December, 2002. Instead of meeting that
requirement, however, the Bush administration asked Congress to
roll back the control requirements. Then, unable to win
Congress' support for that request, the administration
unlawfully tried to declare that the required pollution controls
were simply not necessary or appropriate.

"Power plants are the largest unregulated industrial source of
air toxics," said Earthjustice attorney Jim Pew. "It is
unconscionable that six years after the deadline for action, we
still do not have air toxics controls on these large existing
sources of pollution."

The federal appeals court in D.C. tossed out EPA's attempt in
February 2008, in a lawsuit brought by a coalition of
environmental and public health groups, states and Native
American tribes. Baffled by the Bush administration's reasons as
to why it should not set these requirements, the Court compared
its logic to that of the dangerously irrational Queen of Hearts
character in Alice in Wonderland. Now EPA is back where it
started: in violation of the 2002 statutory deadline to control
power plants' toxic pollution.

"EPA's failure to protect our children's health from toxic
mercury pollution has allowed coal plants to release more than
700,000 pounds of mercury pollution over the past eight years.
The era of deny and delay in failing to protect America's
children from toxic air pollution is coming to a close," said
Vickie Patton, deputy general counsel at Environmental Defense
Fund. "We look forward to working with new leadership for
America that will follow the science and enforce the law to
protect our children and our communities from toxic air

In the intervening 10 months since the court ruling, EPA has
made no moves to comply with the court's order, prompting
today's lawsuit.

"With the devastating impacts mercury is having on our
waterways, fish, women and children in the US, EPA's failure to
pass a mercury control rule that safeguards both human and
environmental health is perhaps the most damning example of an
agency blind to its mission and mandate," stated Waterkeeper
Alliance Legal Director Scott Edwards. "Sadly, once again, the
Bush administration has accomplished what the energy industry
hired it to do eight years ago -- protect their profits, promote
their interests and avoid any accountability."

Approximately 1,100 coal-fired units at more than 450 existing
power plants spew some 96,000 pounds of mercury into the air
each year.

"There are affordable technologies widely available today that
can substantially reduce mercury and other toxic pollution from
coal-fired power plants," said Bruce Nilles, director of the
Sierra Club's National Coal Campaign. "By turning a blind eye to
these technologies the EPA is unnecessarily putting the health
of children everywhere at risk."

Much of the mercury and other metals in the air toxics plume
fall out within 100 miles of the power plant source, and mercury
accumulates up the food chain in fish and in the animals that
consume it. In addition to human health effects, significant
adverse effects on wildlife also have been linked to power plant

"Studies have clearly demonstrated that a significant amount of
mercury pollution from power plants falls locally, and almost
all waterways in Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania have fish
consumption advisories due to mercury," said Chesapeake Bay
Foundation's Director of Litigation Jon Mueller. "While some
states have taken action to reduce mercury pollution others have
not, underscoring the need for national standards."

"The Bush EPA will leave behind a mercury pollution legacy of
shame and irresponsible delay," said John Walke, senior
attorney, Natural Resources Defense Council. "After eight years,
all they managed was to break the law and fail to clean up power
plants' rising toxic emissions."

A copy of the complaint filed today in DC district court is
available here:
-- Southern Environmental Law Center


Founded in 1986, SELC is the only non-profit regional
organization dedicated to protecting the native forests,
wetlands, air and water quality, wildlife habitat and rural
landscapes in Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina,
Tennessee and Virginia. SELC works in partnership with more than
100 diverse groups on legal advocacy, policy reform and public
education to achieve lasting environmental protections.