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The Washington Letter

The Washington Letter

Washington Letter
April 18, 2014
Newsletter of the American Thoracic Society's Washington Office

1150 18th Street NW
Suite 300
Washington, D.C. 20036
Telephone:(202) 296-9770


Federal Court of Appeals Affirms EPA Mercury Air Toxics Rule

This week, the DC District Court of Appeals rejected industry challenges to the EPA’s Mercury Air Toxics rule.  The rule, completed in 2011, set the first-ever national standards for mercury and other toxic air pollution from coal- and oil-fired power plants. It was first mandated by Congress in 1990 but delayed by litigation, lobbying and legislative fights. The appeals court upheld the EPA's position that its regulations were appropriate and necessary and rejected industry arguments that the costs of regulation should have been considered before the rule was implemented.

The EPA estimates that the rule will prevent 11,000 premature deaths, 4,700 heart attacks and 130,000 asthma attacks every year. It will require coal- and oil-fired power plants to install commercially available pollution control equipment to reduce emissions of mercury, acid gases and heavy metals such as arsenic, lead, cadmium and nickel into the air.

The ATS submitted an amicus curiae or “friend of the court” brief to the District Court summarizing the known health effects of exposure to mercury and other air toxics and urged the court to support EPA’s rule.

“As a society of health care professionals who specialize in pulmonary and critical care medicine, the ATS whole-heartedly supports the Mercury and Toxics Rule,” said Patricia Finn, MD, president of the American Thoracic Society and chairman of the Department of Medicine at the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Chicago. “The effects are not just theoretical; our membership encounters individuals every day whose health is compromised, or whose lives are lost, because of these toxic pollutants.”

The Washington Letter is written by the American Thoracic Society government relations office and emailed to all ATS members living in the United States. The letter keeps clinicians, scientists, and patients abreast of legislative, judicial, and regulatory issues in pulmonary, critical care, and sleep medicine. Each week's edition is archived on the ATS Web site, www.thoracic.org. If you have any questions or want more information about becoming involved in advocacy, please contact the ATS Washington office at 202-296-9770.