A Victory for Environmental Health, ANA

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On Friday, March 14th, the DC Circuit Court delivered a second significant victory for the American Nurses Association (ANA) and its partners in a lawsuit filed against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by granting a motion to expedite the effective date of the ANA’s earlier win in the case. In February, the D.C. Circuit panel of judges unanimously concurred in ANA’s reading of the Clean Air Act: the EPA violated the Act when it removed power plants from the hazardous air pollution source list without making the health and environmental risk-based findings required by the law. The decision made clear the environmental agency violated the Clean Air Act by evading cuts in toxic mercury pollution from coal and oil-fired power plants. Because new power plants are currently in the development phase, it was imperative to seek the immediate effect of the Court’s decision. The court granted a motion to expedite the issuance of the mandate filed by ANA and other organizations, so that there will be immediate enforcement of the Clean Air Act provisions.

“Lives will be saved as a result of this ruling,” said ANA President Rebecca M. Patton, MSN, RN, CNOR. “This is a victory for the health of all Americans, and those of us in health care that see and treat the devastating effects of mercury exposure.”

These rulings mean that new power plants must use the best technology available in eliminating mercury emissions, and EPA must start the process to develop standards that apply to both existing and new power plants. The EPA had proposed to replace current standards with a weaker mercury cap-and-trade program that failed to reduce mercury emissions from each power plant in the country, and would have taken effect well past dates mandated in the Clean Air Act.

The suit was originally filed by the American Nurses Association, Physicians for Social Responsibility, American Public Health Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics, with representation provided by counsel from the Southern Environmental Law Center.