(WASHINGTON, DC)—The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) today announced its participation in litigation challenging the Trump administration’s unwarranted reversal of the legal foundation for limiting emissions of mercury and other toxic air pollutants from fossil fuel-fired power plants.
Last month EPA used a flawed cost-benefit analysis that devalued human health benefits to overturn its twenty-year-old finding that it is “appropriate and necessary” to regulate toxic chemical emissions from power plants. This about-face opened the door for a coal company to challenge those standards in court. CBF is also opposing this move. Earthjustice is representing CBF in both cases.
EPA reversed itself even though electricity generators have complied with the rule and slashed hazardous pollutant emissions in the Bay watershed by 96 percent. The revised finding needlessly puts these successful standards at risk and threatens to spike emissions of mercury, a dangerous neurotoxin that can lower children’s IQs.
According to a 2019 analysis CBF submitted in its comments on the revised finding, 91 power plants in the Bay’s airshed could emit an extra 3,795 pounds of mercury a year without the limits in place. This would be a dramatic and harmful increase: as little as 0.3grams of mercury deposition per year is enough to cause methylmercury contamination of a 25-acre lake.
Mercury is the most common metal contaminant in the Bay and its tributaries and keeping it out of the watershed is essential to saving the Bay and the local creeks, streams, and rivers that feed into it. When airborne mercury lands in waterbodies, it accumulates in the food chain and ultimately jeopardizes the health of people who eat contaminated seafood. Low-income and communities of color are most likely to suffer because of their greater reliance on self-caught fish to feed their families.
CBF Staff Attorney Ariel Solaski issued the following statement:
“CBF has partnered successfully with other organizations since 2005 to fight for stringent limits on toxic power plant emissions, and we aren’t about to stop now. The stakes for the Bay watershed and its low-income and communities of color are too high.
“EPA was under no legal obligation to revisit this finding, nor did the industry seek its reversal. Yet in an attempt to prop up a few coal companies, the Trump administration is needlessly jeopardizing standards that have advanced Bay cleanup efforts and protected the region’s most vulnerable children for years.
“We cannot allow this cynical move to undermine critical health and environmental protections that power plants are already meeting. CBF is proud to return to court with our partners to make sure it does not happen.”