Groups urge court to keep EPA air rule in place

Groups urge court to keep EPA air rule in place
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Groups are urging the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to leave the Obama administration’s landmark air quality rule in place.

The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) filed a joint motion with the state of Massachusetts on Thursday asking the court to let the Environment Protection Agency’s (EPA) first-ever limits on mercury, arsenic and acid gases emitted by coal-fired power plants stand while it rehears a case challenging the rule.

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In June, a sharply divided Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the agency should have taken into account the costs to utilities and others in the power sector before even deciding whether to set limits for the toxic air pollutants it regulated in 2011 and remanded the case back to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Now the nation’s second-most powerful court must decide whether to keep the standards in place while the EPA responds to the Supreme Court's ruling. 

“Vacating the rule would be profoundly disruptive, creating and exacerbating significant hazards to public health and the environment and disrupting the administration of other vital air and water pollution control programs,” the motion from the EDF said.

Power companies, including Calpine Corporation, Exelon Corporation, National Grid Generation LLC and Public Service Enterprise Group Inc., also filed a joint motion Thursday in support of leaving the standards in place. The companies said their compliance costs are actually lower than what the EPA had predicted.

The EDF said the pollutants the EPA is trying to regulate are dangerous to human health even in small doses. The group said mercury can cause brain damage in children, metal toxics like chromium and nickel can cause cancer and acid gases can lead to respiratory problems.

“EPA has ample information to swiftly address the court’s ruling while ensuring that these vital clean air safeguards are carried out without delay,” Graham McCahan, EDF’s senior attorney,  said in a news release.