Trump administration tears up Obama's rules slashing mercury emissions

Trump administration tears up Obama's rules slashing mercury emissions

The Environmental Protection Agency is considering backing off of its regulation of toxic mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants.

Under the direction of acting administrator Andrew Wheeler, the EPA is now questioning whether it was appropriate to include these additional benefits. "With this proposal, EPA has made a decision to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, and all Americans will suffer as a result", said Carper.

Consequently, the Trump Administration's EPA is leaving the current MATS rule in place while undercutting the justification for the rule in such a way that could preclude more stringent mercury standards in the future, and could possibly set the stage for looser rules in the future. Mercury can cause brain damage, learning disabilities and birth defects in children, as well as problems for women during pregnancy.

The EPA is not seeking to remove the mercury limitations, outlined under the 2011 Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, but critics are saying the proposed change in calculations sets a risky precedent for future regulations associated with public health.

The EPA proposal is open to public comment for 60 days after it is posted in the Federal Register.

If adopted, the change would prevent regulators from calculating positive health effects - known as "co-benefits" - that come from reducing pollutants other than those being targeted. The long-term impact would be significant: It would weaken the ability of the EPA to impose new regulations in the future by adjusting the way the agency measures the benefits of curbing pollutants, giving less weight to the potential health gains.

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The 2011 Mercury and Air Toxic Standards, enacted under Barack Obama, the former president, led to an estimated $18 billion clean-up of mercury and other toxins from the smokestacks of coal-fired power stations.

Environmental groups say federal and state limits have helped cut mercury emissions from power plants by 85 percent since 2006.

"What has changed now is the administration's attitude towards public health", said Clean Air Task Force Legal Director Ann Weeks in a statement.

The proposed rule recognizes that difficult-to-quantify benefits exist, but said "the administrator has concluded that the identification of these benefits is not sufficient, in light of the gross imbalance of monetized costs".

Hal Quinn, head of the National Mining Association, charged in a statement Friday that the Obama administration had carried out "perhaps the largest regulatory accounting fraud perpetrated on American consumers" when it calculated that the broad health benefits to Americans would outweigh the cost of equipment upgrades by power providers.

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