NRDC Sues EPA Over Withdrawal of Mercury Protection Rule

NEW YORK – The Natural Resources Defense Council today sued the Environmental Protection Agency for illegally rescinding a rule that would protect the public from more than five tons of mercury discharges each year.

In a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court here, NRDC said EPA broke the law by withdrawing the mercury protection rule without public notice or an opportunity for comment.  The White House ordered agencies to withdraw a broad array of rules issued by the Obama Administration to protect public health and the environment.

In its complaint, NRDC contends EPA cannot withdraw the mercury protection rule based on the Trump Administration’s fiat because the rule is final. EPA issued the rule in December to limit substantially the amount of mercury dental offices across the nation discharge regularly.

The following is a statement by Aaron Colangelo, litigation director at NRDC:

“The Trump White House ordered the EPA and other agencies to violate the law. That puts Americans at greater risk of exposure to this dangerous neurotoxin, which can do harm even in tiny amounts. EPA’s withdrawal of the mercury rule is not just illegal, but senseless. The rule imposes minimal burden, drew widespread praise from dental providers and benefits public health and the environment.”


Mercury can disrupt brain function and harm the nervous system.  It is especially harmful to pregnant women, babies and young children, even at tiny levels of exposure. 

One way mercury gets into air and water is through amalgam cavity fillings washed down the drain at dental offices.  Most of the 130,000 dental offices in the US still use or remove amalgam fillings.  Fewer than half of those would need to install equipment to reduce mercury discharges under the rule into wastewater treatment plants, as many have already complied under mandatory state programs.  Installing that equipment would cost about $800 per office.

EPA issued the Mercury Effluent Rule on December 15, 2016 and withdrew it after January 20, 2017 in response to a White House memo.

For more information on the mercury rule, please see this blog by NRDC's Mae Wu.


The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 2 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, Montana, and Beijing. Visit us at and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.

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