Supreme Court to hear challenge to EPA mercury rule

The Supreme Court said on Tuesday it will take up consideration of industry challenges to the administration’s standards for curbing mercury and toxic air pollution from power plants.

The high court will review an April decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which upheld the landmark protections, handing a win to the Environmental Protection Agency.

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Twenty-one states, the National Mining Association, and Utility Air Regulatory Group appealed the federal appeals court ruling, arguing that the EPA should have considered the cost of the regulations.

The challengers what to know when and how EPA considered costs in determining that it is "appropriate" to regulate hazardous air pollutants from power plants under the Clean Air Act.

The standards set the first-ever national limits on mercury, arsenic and acid gases emitted by power plants.

The EPA estimates the rule will cost $9.6 billion per year to enforce but will prevent up to 11,000 premature deaths, 4,700 heart attacks and 130,000 asthma attacks.

“We are disappointed in the Court’s decision, but very confident in the basis of our decision,” said EPA spokeswoman Liz Purchia.

Purchia added that the EPA is confident it "acted properly in regulating harmful toxic air pollution from power plants, which remain the largest source of a number of pollutants, including mercury."

The rule will remain in place during the review, Purchia said. 

“EPA’s life-saving limits on mercury, arsenic and acid gases from smokestacks are thoroughly anchored in law and science, and we look forward to presenting a compelling case for these vital clean air safeguards to the Supreme Court," said Vickie Patton, general counsel for the Environmental Defense Fund, which is a party to the case. 

Justices are expected to rule on the case by June, but could decide as early as May.