updated 2/24/2009 1:03:14 PM ET 2009-02-24T18:03:14

The Supreme Court is refusing a request by electric utility companies to step into a case concerning the regulation of mercury emissions from power plants.

The court said Monday that it will not hear the companies' appeal of a lower court decision that struck down an industry-favored Bush administration rule governing emissions. That rule would have allowed utilities to purchase emission credits instead of actually reducing emissions.

Such a plan would have allowed some power plants to release more mercury pollution than others, creating localized "hot spots" where concentrations are higher, states and environmental groups argued. The law requires all facilities to install the best technology available to curb emissions.

The Obama administration had earlier abandoned its predecessor's appeal of the ruling by a federal appeals court in Washington. The Environmental Protection Agency said it would begin crafting a new rule limiting mercury emissions from power plants, which are the biggest source of mercury. It is commonly found in high concentrations in fish. Mercury can damage developing brains of fetuses and very young children.

The case is Utility Air Regulatory Group v. New Jersey, 08-352.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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