WASHINGTON — A federal appeals court on Tuesday upheld the Environmental Protection Agency’s emission standards for hazardous air pollutants from coal- and oil-fired power plants.
In its ruling, the court rejected state and industry challenges to rules designed to clean up mercury, lead, arsenic, and other pollutants.
The new regulations were designed to remove toxins from the air that contribute to respiratory illnesses, birth defects, and developmental problems in children.
Some industry groups have criticized the standards, saying it would cost billions of dollars annually to comply with the rules.
At the time the rules were brought forward, in 2011, there were no limits on how much mercury or other toxic pollutants could be released from power plants.
Tuesday’s ruling is ‘‘a giant step forward on the road to cleaner, healthier air,’’ said Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund.
The EPA called the decision ‘‘a victory for public health and the environment.’’
Congress did not specify what types or levels of public health risks should be deemed a hazard under federal law.
By leaving this gap, Congress delegated to the EPA authority to give reasonable meaning to the term ‘‘hazard,’’ said the appeals court opinion.