For Immediate Release - March 16, 2012

AG Coakley Leads Eleven States in Support of Upholding EPA’S Mercury Emissions Standards

Says Mercury Emissions Endanger Young Children and Pose Multiple Threats to Health

BOSTON – Arguing that mercury emissions by electric power plants are highly toxic and a threat to public health, Attorney General Martha Coakley is defending the Environmental Protection Agency’s (“EPA”) Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (“MATS”) rule against an appeal in federal court. Eleven other states, along with the District of Columbia and New York City, joined in AG Coakley’s motion today to intervene including Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

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 Coakley is requesting permission from the appeals court to intervene and defend MATS.

“These EPA standards are an important step to protect children and others from exposure to toxic forms of mercury,” AG Coakley said. “While Massachusetts has been a leader in reducing mercury emissions, we cannot control sources of pollution that are outside our borders.  We believe these EPA standards are essential to protect public health both in our state and every state.”

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. Since Massachusetts mercury emission standards are already more stringent, it is unlikely there will be additional costs from MATS for coal plants within the Commonwealth. 

White 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.