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Mercury Pollution Rule Still Intact for Indiana

GRAPHIC: The U.S. Supreme Court delayed a rule to control mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants, although they let the rule stand while the EPA rewrites a portion of it. Mercury emissions typically enter the food chain through waterways. Graphic courtesy of the National Park Service.
GRAPHIC: The U.S. Supreme Court delayed a rule to control mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants, although they let the rule stand while the EPA rewrites a portion of it. Mercury emissions typically enter the food chain through waterways. Graphic courtesy of the National Park Service.
June 30, 2015

INDIANAPOLIS – Critics say it's a win, and so do supporters. The U.S. Supreme Court decision on the EPA Mercury and Air Toxics Standards means the agency will have to go back to the drawing board on the rule, but the rule still stands in Indiana – at least for now.

Earthjustice staff attorney Shannon Fisk says while there may be delays in pollution controls at some coal-fired power plants, the effects may not be as widespread as opponents of the rule would like to see because the rule had already been finalized.

"Many of the utilities have already installed the pollution controls needed to comply with these standards," he says. "Or they've made decisions that they're going to retire these plants because they're un-economic for a whole range of reasons."

Industry opposition to the rule focused on the expense to power plants under new air pollution guidelines, and the number of lost jobs if plants closed. About two dozen Indiana coal-fired power plants were affected by the standard.

The EPA estimates the rule will prevent close to 300 premature deaths every year in Indiana.

The delay in the rule is seen as a victory for the industry, and Fisk concedes it will buy time.

"But delay does not get them much," he says. "The rule is unquestionably valid in terms of the benefits it provides compared to the costs, and the rule remains in effect."

The rule was finalized in 2012. Besides mercury, a known neurotoxin, the rule aims to reduce emissions of arsenic, chromium and hydrochloric acid gas.

Deborah Courson Smith/Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - IN