Clean Air Mercury Rule

From Global Energy Monitor

The Clean Air Mercury Rule (CAMR), issued on March 15, 2005 under George W. Bush, was the first time the EPA required coal-fired power plants to reduce their mercury emissions, through a cap and trade approach.[1] On February 8, 2008, the DC Circuit struck down CAMR in New Jersey v. EPA, No. 05-1097 (D.C. Cir. Feb. 8, 2008), as the Act removed oil and coal-fired electric utility steam generating units (EGUs) from the list of sources of hazardous air pollutants and instead regulated the emissions through a cap-and-trade program. New Jersey, and several other states, municipal governments, and environmental groups, challenged CAMR claiming that EPA had no authority to delist the EGUs without providing a “specific finding” under section 112(c)(9) of the Clean Air Act. The DC Circuit agreed with the Petitioners, vacating both the delisting rule and CAMR.[2]

After the ruling, the EPA began developing air toxics emissions standards for power plants under the Clean Air Act (Section 112), consistent with the D.C. Circuit’s opinion regarding CAMR. EPA intends to propose air toxics standards for coal- and oil-fired electric generating units by March 10, 2011, and finalize a rule by November 16, 2011.[3]

On December 24, 2009, EPA approved an Information Collection Request (ICR) requiring all US power plants with coal-or oil-fired electric generating units to submit emissions information for use in developing air toxics emissions standards.[3]

On March 16, 2011, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its proposed emissions standards to limit mercury, acid gases and other toxic pollution from power plants, to prevent an estimated 91 percent of the mercury in coal from being released to the air. The EPA estimates that there are approximately 1,350 units affected by the action, including 1,200 existing coal-fired units.[4] The proposed toxics rule would reduce emissions of heavy metals, including mercury (Hg), arsenic, chromium, and nickel, and acid gases, including hydrogen chloride (HCl) and hydrogen fluoride (HF). EPA is also proposing to revise the New Source Review performance standards (NSPS) for fossil-fuel-fired plants. This NSPS would revise the standards new coal- and oil-fired power plants must meet for particulate matter (PM), sulfur dioxide (SO2), and nitrogen oxides (NOx). The EPA estimates the rules will prevent thousands of premature deaths and tens of thousands of heart attacks, bronchitis cases and asthma attacks, at a health value total of $59 billion to $140 billion in 2016.[4]



  1. Clean Air Interstate Rule, EPA, accessed November 2008.
  2. Linda Bochert, "EPA in the District Court" American College of Environmental Lawyers, September 23, 2008
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Clean Air Mercury Rule" EPA, accessed July 2010.
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Fact Sheet: Proposed Mercury and Air Toxics Standards" EPA, accessed March 2011.

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