Costs of regulating toxic emissions from oil- and coal-fired power plants are economically reasonable given their myriad public health benefits, the Environmental Protection Agency said Friday. This statement could lead courts to confirm limits to heavy metal pollution from power plants.
Last summer, the Supreme Court ruled in a narrow decision that when the EPA developed its Mercury and Air Toxics Standards commonly called MATS, it failed to properly consider how much the new standards would cost power plants. The Supreme Court didn’t invalidate the rule — it instead said a cost-benefit analysis should have happened before the rule, and sent it back to a D.C. Circuit court for further review. Since then, some states and the industry have unsuccessfully tried to temporarily halt MATS via appeals as the EPA finished the mandated cost-benefit analysis.
The D.C. Circuit will now review the analysis and make a decision on MATS. At an estimated price tag of $9.6 billion per year, MATS is one of the most effective, and expensive, EPA regulations in history. Some of the dirtiest, least-efficient coal plants have chosen to shut down rather than comply by installing widely available like filters and scrubbers. The EPA has said however, that most power plants are already acting to limit toxic emissions. Moreover, Sanjay Narayan, Managing Attorney at the Sierra Club said in past interviews that, in general, the power industry is set to fulfill the rules by next year’s final deadline.
Coal- and oil-fired power plants are the largest industrial sources of toxic air in the United States. Most of the arsenic, acid gases, sulfur dioxide, and mercury in the atmosphere come from power plants, according to the EPA. Power plants are responsible for 50 percent of all U.S. emissions of mercury, a neurotoxin particularly harmful to unborn children. For every dollar spent to make emission cuts, the public is receiving up to $9 in health benefits, according to the EPA. MATS also prevents up to 11,000 premature deaths, 4,700 heart attacks, and 130,000 asthma attacks every year.