Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, October 12, 2017

Contact: Howard Crystal, (202) 809-6926,

Lawsuit Launched to Fight EPA's Delay of Power Plant Heavy Metal Pollution Limits

WASHINGTON— The Center for Biological Diversity filed a formal notice of intent to sue the Environmental Protection Agency today for delaying portions of an “effluent limitation” rule limiting heavy metals in power-plant wastewater.

“The Trump administration is giving power plants a free pass to keep dumping toxic metals like arsenic into our rivers and drinking-water supplies,” said Howard Crystal, a senior attorney at the Center’s Climate Law Institute. “These polluting plants spew more than a billion pounds of contaminants a year into our water. Every day of delay further harms wildlife and puts more Americans at risk of cancer and other health problems.”

The EPA delayed the Obama-era rule last month without first consulting with appropriate federal wildlife agencies as required by the Endangered Species Act. Today’s notice demands that the agency vacate its delay of the rule and work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to evaluate and minimize the delay’s threats to imperiled plants and animals.

In its original environmental assessment for the effluent limitation rule, the EPA concluded that power plant wastewater is hurting aquatic species and posing a drinking water hazard for humans. The same assessment identified 138 threatened and endangered species living in or near surface waters with dangerous pollutant concentrations.

“The EPA is flouting its own warning that dangerously contaminated power plant wastewater threatens vulnerable species and public health,” Crystal said. “We’ll fight to force the Trump administration to protect people and wildlife from this enormous source of water pollution.”

The effluent limitation rule requires steam-powered electricity plants to take economically achievable measures to reduce wastewater streams of heavy metals, including mercury, arsenic and lead. The EPA proposed the rule in 2013, noting that steam electric power plants contribute the majority of all toxic pollution discharged into surface waters by all point sources regulated under the Clean Water Act.

The rule was finalized in 2015 with compliance by power plants set to begin as early as November 2018. However, claiming it wants to reconsider the rule, the EPA has now delayed those compliance deadlines by two years.

There are currently no EPA-imposed limits on heavy metal concentrations in power plant wastewater. Enforcement of the rule would reduce the amount of toxic heavy metals and other pollutants entering waterways by 1.4 billion pounds a year.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.5 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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