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Court Rejects Bush Policy On Mercury Emissions

WASHINGTON (CN) - Environmentalists applauded a D.C. Circuit ruling on Fridaythat rejected the Bush administration's relaxed regulations for controlling mercury emissions from power plants. A three-judge panel unanimously ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency's emissions limits and voluntary cap-and-trade system are illegal.

Mercury is a neurotoxin that builds up in fish, and can cause nerve and brain damage to people who eat seafood. Mercury emissions total about 48 tons a year nationwide, the EPA reports, and most of it comes from air pollution that ends up in water sources.

In the 1990s, the EPA required coal- and oil-fired power plants to regulate mercury emissions using the "maximum achievable control technology." Under the current administration, the agency loosened those rules by delisting coal- and oil-fired power plants as sources of the toxic pollutant and by establishing a national mercury emissions "cap-and-trade" system that lets plants keep emitting mercury if they buy pollution credits from cleaner-burning plants.

Fifteen states, and several government and environmental organizations, filed suit, claiming the EPA violated the Clean Air Act by delisting the power plants without going through the statutory delisting process.

The circuit agreed and vacated the rule, adding that the agency "deploys the logic of the Queen of Hearts, substituting EPA's desires for the plain text" of the law.

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