The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Lawsuit Fights Trump's Delay of Lifesaving Limits on Coal-plant Water Pollution


The Center for Biological Diversity sued the Trump administration's Environmental Protection Agency today for delaying, by two years, new limits on cancer-causing water pollution from coal-burning power plants. The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Tucson, Ariz.

The unlawful delay of the EPA's 2015 Clean Water Act effluent-limitation rule would allow coal plants to continue discharging toxic pollutants like arsenic, mercury and lead known to be extremely harmful to the health of humans and fish.

"To the dinosaurs running Trump's EPA, subsidizing dirty coal is more important than clean water," said Hannah Connor, a senior attorney at the Center. "Delaying these common-sense measures to reduce water pollution will lead to more birth defects and cancers and lower IQs."

Coal-burning power plants are the country's largest source of toxic water pollution, generating more toxic wastewater than the next two largest-polluting industries combined -- petroleum refining and paper mills.

Pollutants discharged by coal-burning plants cause severe health problems, including cancer, lowered IQ among children, deformities and reproductive harm in people and wildlife. The longer the pollutants are allowed to remain in waterways, the more difficult it is to recover damaged aquatic environments.

The 2015 rule was projected to prevent the discharge of approximately 1.4 billion pounds of pollution every year and to reduce by 95 percent releases of selenium, mercury and lead.

"In its push to prop up unsustainable dirty coal plants, the Trump EPA is sentencing millions of Americans to poorer health and postponing the cleanup of thousands of river miles," said Connor. "The delay deepens these toxins' threats to hundreds of endangered and threatened aquatic species like the shortnose sturgeon and hellbender salamander."

In 2015, after years of information-gathering and public input, the EPA published "Effluent Limitations Guidelines and Standards for the Steam Electric Power Generating Point Source Category." The woefully overdue 2015 rule marked the first time since 1982 that the EPA had updated its effluent limitations for power plants.

The rule established new, more stringent effluent-limitation guidelines, performance standards and pretreatment standards that limit the level of certain toxic and nutrient pollutants in several of the effluent waste streams generated by steam electric power plants, including coal-burning power plants.

Effluent limitations are restrictions on the quantities, rates and concentrations of chemical, physical, biological and other pollutants discharged from point sources into U.S. waters. The limits are based on a technical analysis of availability, effectiveness and economic achievability of technologies to limit the target pollution from the point source's effluent stream. Under the Clean Water Act, compliance with effluent limitations must be achieved within no more than three years.

Between June and July 2017 the EPA received thousands of comments from the public asking that it not delay the implementation of this rule.

At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature — to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters and climate that species need to survive.

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