-- Attorney General Stuart Rabner announced
today that, in furtherance of its challenge
to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
rules governing harmful mercury emissions
from power plants, New Jersey has filed
a brief with a federal appeals court in
Washington, D.C. asking that the existing
rules be vacated and that EPA be directed
to establish new standards.
Acting as the lead entity of a 16-state
coalition legally challenging the EPA’s
"cap-and-trade" system for regulating
harmful mercury emissions, New Jersey today
filed a 35-page brief with the U.S. Court
of Appeals for the District of Columbia
The brief contends that EPA violated the
Clean Air Act by exempting power plants
from regulations requiring deep reductions
in their emissions of hazardous air pollutants.
The coalition asserts that the alternative
cap-and-trade regulations EPA developed
for power plants - the Clean Air Mercury
Rule - will delay meaningful emission reductions
of mercury for many years, perpetuating
mercury deposition "hot spots"
and endangering the health of children.
The states contend that creating a cap-and-trade
system for regulating a potent neurotoxin
like mercury is unprecedented, and does
not protect public health.
position, simply put, is that the EPA has
failed to meet the mandate of the federal
Clean Air Act – that is, the EPA has
adopted standards for regulating a harmful
neurotoxin that are weak and actually run
counter to the intent of the law,"
said Attorney General Rabner.
The EPA announced in May 2006 that it would
move forward with its cap-and-trade system
for regulating mercury emissions. New Jersey
and the other coalition states subsequently
filed a federal court challenge to the rule,
as well as a separate rule that removed
power plants from the list of pollution
sources subject to stringent pollution controls
under the Clean Air Act. After more than
six months, EPA adopted final rules for
mercury emissions that failed to address
any of the concerns raised by the states.
Nationwide, coal-fired power plants are
the largest source of uncontrolled mercury
emissions, generating approximately 48 tons
of mercury emissions per year.
According to the participating states, the
cap-and-trade system established by EPA’s
2006 regulations allows power plants to
avoid the expense of installing stringent
pollution controls to reduce mercury emissions.
Instead, the states note, power plants can
purchase emission reduction "credits"
from other plants that reduce emissions
below targeted levels. The states contend
that this practice allows localized mercury
deposition hot spots to develop -- and to
expand -- near plants that choose not to
actually reduce emissions.
Bush administration is playing a shell game
with the health of the residents of New
Jersey and other states that are downwind
of those coal-burning power plants that
are among the biggest emitters of this extremely
toxic metal," said Department of Environmental
Protection Commissioner Lisa P. Jackson.
cap-and-trade system will allow mercury
to fall and collect in regionalized hot
spots, contaminating our environment and
jeopardizing our health. The nation needs
state-of-the-art technological controls,
not environmental sleight of hand,"
Commissioner Jackson added.
Mercury emissions can ultimately enter the
aquatic food chain and be consumed by humans
ingesting certain types of fish. Children
can suffer permanent brain and nervous system
damage as a result of exposure to even low
levels of mercury, which frequently occurs
in utero. Mercury exposure can result in
attention and language deficits, impaired
memory and compromised vision and motor
EPA finalized its cap-and-trade rule for
mercury emissions despite research –
funded by the agency itself – that
suggested mercury deposition rates from
local coal-fired generating plants were
many times higher than EPA projections.
Conducted in Steubenville, Ohio, the EPA-funded
research suggested significant potential
for uncontrolled coal-burning plants to
perpetuate mercury hot spots. EPA’s
own Inspector General also released a report
in 2006 questioning the agency’s conclusion
that its new mercury emission rules would
not contribute to hot spots.
The federal appeal of the EPA cap-and-trade
regulations is being handled for New Jersey
by Deputy Attorneys General Christopher
Ball and Jung Kim . The coalition challenging
the EPA regulations also includes California,
Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine,
Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, new
Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania,
Rhode Island, Vermont and Wisconsin. The
City of Baltimore is also part of the coalition.
Exposure to the most toxic form of mercury
comes primarily from eating contaminated
fish and shellfish. At least 40 states throughout
the nation have issued fish advisory warnings
cautioning residents against eating certain
types of fish. In New Jersey, there are
mercury consumption advisories for at least
one species of fish in nearly every body
of water throughout the state.
Brief (1.54mb pdf) plug-in