AG Gansler Intervenes to Protect EPA Mercury Emission Standards
Mercury emissions endanger young children, pose multiple health threats
Baltimore, MD (March 16, 2012) - Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler, representing the Maryland Department of the Environment, is defending the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) rule against an appeal in federal court, arguing that mercury emissions by electric power plants are highly toxic and a threat to public health. Attorney General Gansler is joined by the Attorneys General from Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and the District of Columbia in these efforts.
"These standards protect our children as well as adults from exposure to the most toxic forms of mercury," said the Attorney General. "Strong EPA standards are essential to protecting public health in our state and every state, especially since we can't control pollution sources outside our state border."
In February, various industry groups brought cases challenging the EPA's standards designed to reduce mercury emissions by the electric power industry. Those standards aim to reduce mercury emissions by 90-percent through the implementation of technology already used in the industry. AG Gansler is requesting permission from the appeals court to intervene and defend MATS.
Mercury is highly toxic to humans, especially to developing fetuses and children, and wildlife. Deposited mercury can change into methylmercury, an even more toxic form, which can accumulate in the food chain causing serious illness and learning disabilities. Implementation of proven technology will also result in substantial reductions in emissions of other toxic metals, small particulates, and sulfur dioxide.
In February, the EPA issued the MATS rule in direct response to an order from the same federal appeals court in 2008. The court ruled that EPA's decision in 2000 to allow electricity generating plants to avoid regulation of mercury and other toxic emissions under the Clean Air Act was invalid.
As a sector, electricity generating plants are the largest domestic source of mercury emissions in the United States. The MATS allows existing sources three years to comply, and notes that up to two additional years may be allowed in certain special cases. The EPA estimates that health benefits of the MATS rule will range from $37 to $90 billion annually, and will cost electric power plants only $3 to $9 billion a year.
The MATS will ensure that power plants in the rest of the country are subject to the same low mercury emissions limits already in place in Maryland. In 2006, Maryland enacted the Healthy Air Act, which required major reductions in mercury emissions to be phased-in at Maryland power plants starting in 2010 with additional reductions in 2013. The Healthy Air Act impacts Maryland's largest coal-burning power plants, which account for over 95% of the state's power plant emissions. At full implementation Maryland's Healthy Air Act will reduce mercury emissions by 90 percent. In fact, data from the last four quarters submitted by these coal-fired plants in Maryland show mercury emissions have already been reduced by 88 percent (953 pounds per year to 110 pounds per year) without affecting reliability.
Stallion Energy Center, LLC, a proposed Texas coal plant, the National Mining Association, the Black Chamber of Commerce and the Institute for Liberty, filed petitions for review in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which have been consolidated. Petitioners have not yet identified the specific issues they intend to raise but the AG's Office is confident that the legal and scientific basis for EPA's MATS rule is sound and should be upheld.