WILMINGTON, Del. (Legal Newsline) - Twelve state attorneys general joined on Friday to defend the Environmental Protection Agency's efforts against mercury pollution.

The AGs joined to fight back against what they say are attempts to weaken the EPA's efforts to significantly cut the amount of mercury pollution released into the air by electric power plants. Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden and others filed a brief in federal court requesting to be allowed to intervene and defend the EPA's Mercury and Air Toxics Standards.

"Mercury pollution can be very harmful to our health," Biden said. "A lot of the pollution in Delaware's air comes from sources outside of our borders, and the EPA is doing the right thing in acting to cut down on harmful emissions across the country."

Other state participating in the filing include Vermont, Rhode Island, New York, New Mexico, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, Iowa, Illinois and Connecticut.

Industry groups brought cases in February in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to challenge the EPA's standards, which seek to reduce mercury emissions by the electric power industry. The standards seek to reduce mercury emissions by 90 percent by requiring that power plants utilize emission-reducing technology.

In late 2011, the EPA issued the MATS rule in direct response to an order from the federal appeals court in 2008. The court ruled that the EPA's decision in 2000 to allow plants that generate electricity to avoid the regulation of mercury and other toxic emissions as part of the Clean Air Act was invalid.

Electricity-generating plants are the largest domestic source of mercury emissions in the United States, the AGs say. The MATS gives existing sources three years to comply and provides an additional two years in certain cases. The EPA estimates the value of the health benefits from the MATS rule may range from $37 billion to $90 billion each year, while costing the power plants $3 billion to $9 billion a year.

Stallion Energy Center LLC, the National Mining Association, the Institute for Liberty and the Black Chamber of Commerce filed petitions for review in the court of appeals, which have since been consolidated.

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