For Immediate Release
February 8, 2008
Senior Assistant Attorney General Maureen D. Smith
New Hampshire Attorney General Kelly Ayotte and Department of Environmental Services (DES) Commissioner Thomas Burack announced today that a federal appeals court has agreed with New Hampshire and a coalition of states, cities and environmental groups that the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) violated federal law when it adopted lax mercury emission limitations for power plants.
On February 8, 2008, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rejected two EPA rules that would have established a "cap and trade" program for mercury emissions from power plants. New Hampshire and others had challenged the rules as being illegal under the federal Clean Air Act, which requires strict limits on toxic pollutants like mercury. The federal appeals court agreed and found that EPA had illegally removed power plants from a list of pollution sources that required each plant to have strict controls. As a result, the court vacated the two rules that would have allowed power plants to avoid installing pollution controls by trading mercury emission credits under a national emissions cap.
Mercury is a neurotoxin that has contaminated many lakes, rivers and streams in New Hampshire, leading to statewide fish advisories. New Hampshire has adopted its own legislation to control mercury emissions from in-state power plants, but EPA's trading rule would have allowed upwind plants from other states to continue polluting at higher levels well into the future.
Attorney General Ayotte commented: "Today's Court of Appeals decision is an important victory for the health and welfare of New Hampshire's citizens, as well as for our environment and the state's tourism-based economy. The federal government should make adoption of meaningful nationwide control of power plant mercury emissions a high priority."
Governor John Lynch said: "New Hampshire has long been a leader in acting to reduce harmful mercury emissions in an effort to better protect the health of our citizens, our environment and our economy. We moved forward with our own legislation to control mercury because the federal rules did not do enough to protect the citizens of New Hampshire. I am pleased that the Federal Appeals Court has agreed with New Hampshire and the other states, and has made clear that the federal government needs to support – not undercut – our efforts to reduce pollution. Now the federal government should move quickly to finally stop Midwestern power plants from polluting our air and water here in New Hampshire."
DES Commissioner Thomas Burack added: "Coal-fired power plants are the largest source of uncontrolled mercury emissions. New Hampshire's own laws requiring steep reductions in mercury emissions from power plants will provide local benefits to New Hampshire and the entire Northeast. We look forward to working with the federal government in developing rules to control all coal-fired power plants in the country."
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