The Supreme Court’s Decision Recognizes That it Makes No Sense to Stay Mercury and Air Toxics Standards

For Immediate Release

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Brian Willis: 202.675.2386, Brian.Willis@sierraclub.org

The Supreme Court’s Decision Recognizes That it Makes No Sense to Stay Mercury and Air Toxics Standards

WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court denied a request to suspend the Environmental Protection Agency’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) today. As a result of that decision, vitally important health protections against mercury and other dangerous toxics - protections which are especially valuable to children and pregnant women - will remain in place, and continue to be implemented.

MATS requires coal- and oil-fired power plants to significantly reduce their emissions of toxic pollutants. It will safeguard American communities from the largest single domestic source of mercury, arsenic, and a host of other similarly dangerous substances. The EPA estimates that MATS protections will prevent up to 11,000 premature deaths and more than 100,000 asthma and heart attacks each year.

In June 2015, the Supreme Court required EPA to conduct an additional analysis of the costs of the rule to industry. EPA has nearly completed that analysis; it published a tentative finding in December, concluding that the MATS’ health benefits justify the compliance costs. Despite that finding the coal industry and its allies asked the D.C. Court of Appeals to remove MATS’ public health protections entirely.

There's something in the air...

The D.C. Circuit rejected that request two months ago. Last week the State of Michigan, along with several other states, renewed their request in a motion to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court’s decision today, made by Chief Justice Roberts, rejected that motion. EPA has indicated that the required cost assessment will be complete by April 2016. Most plants have been complying with the standards since April 2015, and the remainder are expected to come into compliance within the next few weeks.

In response, Sanjay Narayan, Managing Attorney at Sierra Club’s Environmental Law Program, released the following statement:

“The Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) protect our children from irreversible neurological damage, and against a host of other similarly serious harms to the public.

“The utility industry has already shown that it is prepared to comply with this vital rule and the EPA has nearly completed the analysis the Supreme Court requested, confirming that these benefits are unequivocally worth the costs of compliance. It would make no sense to suspend these vital protections during the handful of weeks it will take EPA to complete that analysis.”

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The Sierra Club is the oldest and largest grassroots environmental organization in the United States. It was founded on May 28, 1892 in San Francisco, California by the well-known conservationist and preservationist John Muir, who became its first president. The Sierra Club has hundreds of thousands of members in chapters located throughout the US, and is affiliated with Sierra Club Canada.

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