Trump EPA Says Mercury Limits On Coal Plants Too Costly, Not 'Necessary'

EPA proposes easing regulation of mercury from coal plants

Sen. Tom Carper issued a statement December 28 after the Environmental Protection Agency announced that is rolling back critical protections by asserting that it is no longer "appropriate and necessary" to regulate mercury and toxic air pollution from coal and oil-fired plants under the Mercury Air Toxics Standards.

The 2011 Obama administration rule led to what electric utilities say was an $18 billion clean-up of mercury and other toxins from the smokestacks of coal-fired power plants.

In announcing the new proposed rule, the Environmental Protection Agency said in a statement that the costs of cutting mercury from power plants "dwarfs" the monetary benefits.

In a statement, the EPA said it is "providing regulatory certainty by transparently and accurately taking account of both costs and benefits". Mercury is a neurotoxin that can damage the brain and nervous system in young children, leading to lower IQ and impaired motor skills.

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Coal power plants are the single biggest source of mercury pollution in America, accounting for almost half of mercury pollution in 2015, according to a recent study published by Harvard University's School of Public Health.

In a press release, the EPA said that compliance with the rule costs power companies $7.4 to $9.6 billion annually, while benefits tallied only $4 to $6 million annually.

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 proposal, which now goes up for public comment, is the latest Trump administration move that changes estimates of the costs and payoffs of regulations in arguing for relaxing Obama-era environmental protections. He's a former EPA air administrator now with Bracewell LLP, which represents energy industry clients. "The misguided proposed changes leave MATS legally vulnerable and foolishly make it harder to strengthen mercury pollution reduction standards in the future to better protect children's and women's health, and Great Lakes fisheries".

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Groups were quick to criticize the move, including the Environmental Law and Policy Center, as well as Democratic Rep.

The Trump administration Friday announced a plan created to make it easier for coal-fired power plants, after almost a decade of restrictions, to once again release mercury and other pollutants linked to developmental disorders and respiratory illnesses into the atmosphere.

Janet McCabe, a former air-quality official in the Obama administration's EPA, called the proposal part of "the quiet dismantling of the regulatory framework" for the federal government's environmental protections.

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