They Fought The Law: Big Utilities Sue the EPA and Lobby the Senate to Stop Public Health Protection

AP/ David J. Phillip

By Daniel J. Weiss and Jackie Weidman

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.

Last year the EPA issued two rules that would reduce smog, acid rain, and airborne toxic chemicals: the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule and the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards.

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.

Table 1

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. This is a cross-post.

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 CAP’s Energy Policy Team.

Download this issue brief (pdf)

Read the full brief in your web browser (Scribd)

View full list of companies and organizations suing the EPA over pollution rules (xls)

Read letter from Daniel J. Weiss to UARG members about this issue brief (doc)

5 Responses to They Fought The Law: Big Utilities Sue the EPA and Lobby the Senate to Stop Public Health Protection

  1. Mike Roddy says:

    The signatories are guilty of criminal negligence. If we had an actual system of justice, they would be sent to prison. They are responsible for deaths in the present.

    It makes you wonder how we are going to find support from this crowd to do something about death and suffering in the future.

  2. colinc says:

    I would concur completely if and only if every molecule of crap coming out of their factories’ “exhaust” (to air and water) were first passed through those prison cells. Otherwise, the “justice” you speak of is several orders of magnitude too lenient!

  3. Mark Shapiro says:

    Coal and oil companies and their allies have the money and the experience to play the game in every venue: elections, courts, legislatures, press, think tanks, and associations.

    They don’t quit. They have money, and they don’t quit.

    So many thanks to CAP, NRDC, ALA and others for keeping up the fight.

  4. John Hollenberg says:

    Suing the EPA on what grounds? That they are doing their job?

  5. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    On the grounds of socialist sentimentality, in that they are equating human life with money.