BALTIMORE, MD (February 8, 2008) – The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia today vacated two Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules that failed to follow the requirements of the Clean Air Act. Maryland, along with 18 states or state agencies and the City of Baltimore sued the EPA last year for illegally exempting power plants from Clean Air Act regulations that set strict standards for hazardous air pollutants, including mercury. The suit maintained that rather than impose the regulations as required by law, the EPA illegally allowed power plants to operate under a “cap-and-trade” system, enabling enabled dirty coal and oil-fired plants to trade pollution credits for the right to emit certain amounts of mercury.
“Today’s decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals sends a clear message to the EPA that they must get back to the business of protecting the environment and citizens’ health,” said Attorney General Doug Gansler. “As a result of today’s decision, thousands of Maryland residents, especially our children, and our fish and wildlife will be better protected from the hazards of mercury contamination.”
“We’re extremely pleased with this decision, it confirms that plant-by-plant controls must be implemented in all 50 states and prohibits mercury trading,” said MDE Secretary Shari G. Wilson. “Maryland’s Healthy Air Act already requires reducing mercury emissions in Maryland by 90%. This is a major step forward for public health.”
Maryland and the other states and petitioners that challenged the EPA contend that a strict mercury emissions standard based on “maximum achievable control technology,” as required by the Clean Air Act, could reduce mercury emissions to levels approximately three times lower than the “cap” established under the EPA’s cap-and-trade system, and could do so more quickly. Coal-fired power plants are the largest source of uncontrolled mercury emissions, generating 48 tons of mercury emissions per year nationwide.