April has brought two major victories in the courts for public health. This week, the Supreme Court upheld the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, which will reduce harmful air pollution that blows across state lines. Also, a federal appeals court earlier this month upheld the EPA’s landmark Mercury and Air Toxics Standard for power plants. These court decisions reinforce that the EPA has the authority—and is doing its job—under the Clean Air Act to protect the air we breathe.
The EPA’s Cross-State Air Pollution Rule is a critical safeguard against pollution from power plants that crosses state lines and contributes to poor air quality in downwind states. It will require coal-fired power plants in 28 eastern states to reduce sulfur dioxide and oxides of nitrogen pollution. This will help protect the health of many communities—often in faraway states and reduce ozone and fine particulate matter—also commonly known as smog and soot.
“Today’s Supreme Court decision is a resounding victory for public health and a key component of EPA’s efforts to make sure all Americans have clean air to breathe," said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. Indeed this safeguard will result in cleaner air for millions of Americans while preventing thousands of premature deaths and hundreds of thousands of cases of aggravated asthma attacks and respiratory problems each year.
The federal appeals court decision to uphold the EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxic Standards was another key victory for clean air and public health. This safeguard places the first-ever limits on the amount of mercury and other toxic pollution power plants can spew into our air. Mercury is a potent neurotoxin that is especially dangerous to children and women of child-bearing age. And once this rule is implemented, it will significantly improve public health by preventing over 100,000 heart and asthma attacks each year.
It’s the EPA’s job under the Clean Air Act to protect our health by keeping dangerous pollution out of our air, and we are glad to see that the courts agree. Now it’s time to get these important safeguards as soon as possible, so that Americans can begin to breathe easier.