Two essential Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, regulations to protect children, seniors, the infirm, and others from air pollution are under attack from the coal industry and many utilities.
On July 6, 2011, the EPA finalized the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule to reduce sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide pollution—two of the main ingredients in acid rain and smog—from power plants in upwind states that were polluting downwind states. An interactive EPA map demonstrates that pollution doesn’t stop at state borders.
Then, on December 16, 2011, the EPA finalized the first standards to reduce mercury, arsenic, lead, and other toxic air pollution 21 years after controls on such pollution became law.
Today more than 130 coal companies, electric utilities, trade associations, other polluting industries, and states are suing the EPA in federal court to obliterate, undermine, or delay these essential health protection standards. A parallel effort is underway to block the mercury reduction rule in the Senate, which is scheduled to vote on it this week. This CAP investigation found that these utilities were responsible for 33,000 pounds of mercury and 6.5 billion pounds of smog and acid rain pollution in 2010 alone.
This brief takes a closer look at these utilities’ lawsuits against the EPA. The paper explains the public health and economic benefits of the rules and utility companies’ efforts to block them. We also look at how heavily these companies are spending to convince lawmakers to block the rules. The courts and Congress should support public health protections and “just say no” to these dirty efforts.
Daniel J. Weiss is a Senior Fellow and Director of Climate Strategy, and Jackie Weidman is Special Assistant for Energy Policy at the Center for American Progress.
Thanks to John Walke, clean air director and senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council; the American Lung Association; and Celine Ramstein, former intern with the Center for American Progress Energy Policy Team.