Press Release | April 15, 2014

U.S. Court of Appeals Upholds Protections Against Toxic Air Pollution from Coal-fired Power Plants

Statement on Health Benefits for the Southeast from John Suttles, Senior Attorney, Southern Environmental Law Center

WASHINGTON– In a major victory for people’s health, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit today upheld EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards for Power Plants – a clean air safeguard that will significantly reduce harms from power plant toxic air pollution, including mercury, lead, arsenic and acid gases. 

In response to today’s decision, Southern Environmental Law Center attorney, John Suttles, who represented the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Lung Association, American Nurses Association, American Public Health Association, and Physicians for Social Responsibility as interveners in the case released the following statement.

“Today’s decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals secures critically important safeguards for people’s health, particularly in the Southeast, where people are vulnerable to some of the largest concentrations of coal-fired power plants in the country.  Coal plants are among the largest sources of toxic pollution into the air we breathe.”

“Today’s decision is a great result for clean air and the health of families across the Southeast.  It assures that one of the biggest unregulated sources of toxic air pollution must finally limit their emissions of toxic mercury, lead, arsenic, acid gases, and other heavy metals.”

“Families in Atlanta and Richmond—cities that suffer from  some of the highest levels of toxic air pollution from coal plants in the country— as well as families across the Southeast will be able breathe easier with limits on toxic pollution finally in place.”

The EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards will prevent every year up to 11,000 premature deaths, nearly 5,000 heart attacks and 130,000 asthma attacks. Additionally, the standards will help avoid more than 540,000 days when people have to miss work because of health problems associated with power plant pollution. These “sick” days diminish economic productivity and raise health care costs.

The Southern Environmental Law Center and its clients defended the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards against an industry lawsuit that sought to block these limits to emissions of highly toxic air pollutants like mercury, arsenic, acid gases, and lead from coal- and oil-fired power plants. Under the 1990 Amendments to the Clean Air Act, these standards were already two decades overdue when EPA adopted them in December 2011 and are based on successful measures already in place in many plants.

About the Southern Environmental Law Center: The Southern Environmental Law Center is a regional nonprofit using the power of the law to protect the health and environment of the Southeast (Virginia, Tennessee, North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama). Founded in 1986, SELC's team of nearly 60 legal and policy experts represent more than 100 partner groups on issues of climate change and energy, air and water quality, forests, the coast and wetlands, transportation, and land use.

Are you a reporter and would like more information? Please visit our press contact page for a full list of SELC’s press contacts.

Press Contacts

John Suttles

Deputy Director

Phone: 919-967-1450

Kathleen Sullivan

Senior Communications Manager (NC)

Phone: 919-945-7106
Email: [email protected]