Company Petitions for DC Court to Evaluate EPA Mercury Emissions Limit

Westmoreland Mining LLC, a Colorado coal company, filed a petition for judicial review of mercury emissions rules for coal-fired power plants. The company, represented by Baker & Hostetler, argues that after the recent final Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) action on “Regulator Finding on the Emissions of Hazardous Air Pollutants From Electric Utility Steam Generating Units,” mercury emissions rules should be eased for its power plants and other similar plants.

The EPA recently corrected flaws in a 2016 cost finding report about Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) for coal and oil-fired power plants and completed a risk and technology review after the United States Supreme Court found that the agency had not taken the cost of compliance into account. The EPA’s decision after evaluation was that it is not “appropriate” or “necessary” to regulate the emissions from power plants, but that the plants are still subject to the MATS rule. The EPA cited a 2018 United Nations report saying the United States is responsible for 1.64 percent of global mercury emissions.

“Under this action, no more mercury will be emitted into the air than before,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler according to an April EPA press release. “EPA is following through on the Supreme Court’s direction and correcting the previous Administration’s flawed cost finding in its original rule. Today’s action maintains the mercury emissions standard, and meets the statutory obligation to review the adequacy of those standards. This is another example of the EPA, under the Trump Administration, following the law while making reasonable regulatory decisions that are fully protective of the public health and environment.”

The new 2020 rule did not change any standards, it only altered the analysis that justified the standards. According to The Hill the Obama administration found in the 2016 report that the rule would save up to $90 billion, the recent report by the Trump administration said the rules only save $4-6 million. The MATS standards have been in place since 2012.

 Westmoreland Mining Holdings thinks the report changing the 2016 findings should cause a review of current mercury emissions regulations which were based on the initial report. E&E News claims this lawsuit is the beginning of “a looming courtroom free-for-all” after the repeal of power plant limits.

“If they prevail, MATS will be vacated,” said John Walke, clean air director for the Natural Resources Defense Council according to E&E News.