TRENTON, N.J. - New Jersey Attorney General Stuart Rabner says his office recently cleared a major legal hurdle in defending the state's regulations on mercury emissions.

The Appellate Division of state's Superior Court unanimously decided Friday to side with the state in the challenge initiated by a national association representing iron and steel melters and the owner of two New Jersey facilities.

They alleged that the state-imposed regulations were too stringent.

"This decision confirms the state's authority to protect the health of our citizens by enacting tough rules to reduce dangerous mercury pollution," Rabner said.

Rabner says that iron and steel melters are the state's largest source of mercury emissions, producing an estimated 1,000 pounds of mercury into the environment each year.

The regulations that were challenged were established in 2004 and intended to reduce mercury emissions from four source categories: Coal-burning power plants, municipal solid waste incinerators, medical waste incinerators and iron and steel melters.

New Jersey is leading a coalition of 16 states that is challenging the federal mercury rules, specifically one that removes power plants from the list of pollution sources subject to mercury regulations.

Rabner's office called Friday's victory a complement to its efforts against the federal laws.

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