EPA targets Obama crackdown on mercury from coal plants

31 December, 2018, 17:16 | Author: Dwayne Harmon
  • Uncovered coal trains

President Donald Trump's administration announced Friday that the Environmental Protection Agency is relaxing Obama-era rules preventing coal-fired power plants from releasing mercury and other risky pollutants into the air.

It said cost of the Mercury and Air Toxic Standards Act ranged from $7.4 to $9.6 billion a year with benefits from regulating hazardous air pollutant emissions ranging from $4 to $6 million a year.

Overall, environmental groups say, federal and state efforts have cut mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants by 85 percent in roughly the last decade. It calculates that the crackdown on mercury and other toxins from coal plants produced only a few million dollars a year in measurable health benefits and was not "appropriate and necessary" - a legal benchmark under the country's landmark Clean Air Act.

Trump administration officials say the Obama EPA inflated benefits and underestimated costs.

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.

Ann Weeks, senior counsel for the Clean Air Task Force, an environmental group, criticized the rule as "bean counting", and said, "This is not tax law". In a draft of its proposed rule (PDF), Trump's EPA said that the Obama-era EPA had erred by quantifying the co-benefits of reducing other, non-mercury pollutants in its analysis.

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A proposal by acting EPA Administrator, Andrew R. Wheeler, signed yesterday and submitted by the the EPA would lay the ground work for repealing Mercury and Air Toxics Standards first enacted in 2011 according to the New York Times. Mercury harms the developing nervous systems of children and causes other severe health damage. But it further justified the regulation by citing an additional $80 billion in health benefits a year by, among other things, preventing the 11,000 premature deaths.

A study published this month by Harvard University's School of Public Health said coal-fired power plants are the top source of mercury in the United States, accounting for almost half of mercury emissions in 2015.

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

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.

The EPA on Friday proposed a new rule that challenges the basis for the Obama regulation.

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