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  • Big Coal cleared a hurdle in protecting its profits at the expense of the environment.

    Big Coal cleared a hurdle in protecting its profits at the expense of the environment. | Photo: AFP

The EPA rules sought to keep mercury and other toxic pollutants out of air and waterways.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Monday to overturn the Environmental Protection Agency’s safeguards to curb toxic power plant pollution.

The court’s decision halts the EPA’s 2011 Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, designed to protect local communities, which required energy utilities to reduce dangerous mercury emissions polluting the nation’s air and waterways.

“As a mother, I am appalled by the Court’s willingness to delay protections that would ensure the right of all children to grow up safe, healthy, and protected from pollution.”

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“As a mother, I am appalled by the Court’s willingness to delay protections that would ensure the right of all children to grow up safe, healthy, and protected from pollution,” said Mary Anne Hitt, Director of Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign. “The protections this court rejected would shield our kids from the lifelong neurological damage brought on by exposure to toxic mercury, and prevent up to 11,000 premature deaths, 4,700 heart attacks and 130,000 asthma attacks annually.”

The 5-4 decision is seen as a boon for the coal industry. The regulation required coal-fired power plants to reduce toxic mercury emissions by 91 percent and significantly decrease other toxic pollutants. The court argued the regulations placed undue economic burdens on the industry

“It is not rational, never mind ‘appropriate,’ to impose billions of dollars in economic costs in return for a few dollars in health or environmental benefits,” conservative Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in the majority opinion.

The EPA must now revisit the regulations while doing an economic cost-benefit analysis. The government agency argues that it does economic cost analysis, but after it determines the environmental costs.

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“The court has sided with the dirty delinquents — the small percentage of coal-fired plants that haven’t cleaned up — and against the majority that are already protecting our children from mercury and other toxic pollutants,” said Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund.

The lawsuit, brought by Michigan and 19 other Republican-led states, will now return to a lower  D.C. Circuit court which will determine whether to invalidate the pollution reducing regulations. If it does, the EPA will likely have to redraft another version of the regulation, which could take years.


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