Health and Fitness

Sierra Club: Supreme Court Rejects Latest Polluter Backed Challenge to Vital Health Protections Against Mercury Pollution

WASHINGTON, D.C. –(ENEWSPF)–June 13, 2016.   The United States Supreme Court decided to reject another polluter-backed challenge to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) today. The court refused the state of Michigan’s request to review the D.C. Circuit’s decision to leave these vital public health protections in place, while the EPA responded to the Supreme Court’s decision last year in Michigan v. EPA to create an additional assessment of MATS’ costs to industry.

MATS requires coal- and oil-fired power plants to significantly reduce their emissions of toxic pollutants and protects American communities from the largest single source of mercury, arsenic, and a host of other similarly dangerous substances. Power plants’ mercury emissions are particularly harmful; children exposed to mercury, even in utero, can suffer severe cognitive disabilities.

The EPA estimates that MATS will prevent up to 11,000 premature deaths and more than 100,000 asthma and heart attacks each year. Last year, the Supreme Court required EPA to conduct an additional assessment of the protections’ costs to industry — which EPA has recently confirmed to be relatively modest, especially in relation to the massive health benefits of the protections. Polluting industries have separately challenged that new finding in a separate suit that is pending in the D.C. Circuit.

Challengers to the MATS protections had asked the Supreme Court to decide whether the D.C. Circuit had erred in deciding to leave MATS in place, while EPA completed the costs assessment required by Michigan v EPA. EPA, supported by the Sierra Club and other public health and environmental groups, as well as several states and some electricity producers, pointed out in their responses that the agency had already completed the mandated cost assessment, rendering that question largely moot, and that virtually all power plants had already complied with MATS’ requirements, providing no pragmatic reason to suspend the protections.

In response, Sanjay Narayan, a managing attorney for the Sierra Club, released the following statement:

“MATS offers tremendous benefits for the American people by protecting their health, at reasonable costs to industry.

“The Supreme Court correctly rejected the latest industry challenge to these vital protections against dangerous, toxic pollutants — pollutants which have, until these Standards, put the health of young children across the country at risk.”