EPA takes aim at Obama-era regulation of mercury at coal plants

EPA proposes easing regulation of mercury from coal plants

Trump’s EPA To Weaken Rule Limiting Coal Plant Mercury Emissions

"Once again, the Trump administration is acting in a way that will adversely affect the health and safety of those living from coast to coast". 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. The federal government is required to take into account both the costs and health benefits when considering pollution regulations.

In July, electric utilities and utility groups favoring the rule asked the administration to keep it in place.

The proposal will be up for 60 days of public comment before a final ruling goes into effect.

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. Mercury can cause brain damage, learning disabilities and birth defects in children, as well as problems for women during pregnancy. In a statement announcing the proposed revision-which would eliminate the consideration of these "co-benefits"-the EPA said the cost of complying with the regulation "dwarfs" the monetized benefits in health".

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The mercury regulation also costs the coal industry $9.6 billion annually, making it among the most expensive regulations the EPA has ever had to enforce. That came not from curbing mercury itself but from the reduction in particulate matter linked to heart and lung disease that also occurs when cutting mercury emissions.

President Barack Obama in contrast cited $80 billion in health benefits annually, including preventing 11,000 premature deaths, 4,700 heart attacks and 130,000 asthma attacks. For that reason, the original rule argued against using a strict cost-benefit analysis to decide whether the regulation should be imposed, said Joseph Goffman, executive director of Harvard Law School's Environmental and Energy Law Program.

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. "It's a very different calculus".

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