January 19, 2019

EPA proposes easing regulation of mercury from coal plants

31 December 2018, 05:13 | Ross Houston

Enlarge An eastbound Norfolk Southern Corp. unit coal train passes through Waddy

Uncovered coal trains

The Trump Administration has determined that it is unnecessary and too costly to regulate hazardous air pollutants (HAP) emanating from USA coal and oil-fired power plants as outlined in current mercury standards, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said in a press release on Friday. Environmental groups say the regulation has contributed to an 85 per cent reduction in mercury emissions in the past decade.

Under the Obama administration, The Washington Post reports, the EPA calculated that limiting mercury would create $6 million in health benefits annually, a number much lower than the $9.6 billion it's estimated to cost companies to comply to the regulations each year.

The agency said that the Trump administration was "providing regulatory certainty" by more accurately estimating the costs... The rule places limits on the amount of mercury that a power plant can emit.

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".

The proposal will be up for 60 days of public comment before a final ruling goes into effect. He's a former EPA air administrator now with Bracewell LLP, which represents energy industry clients.

"By releasing this proposal today, Acting Administrator Wheeler can only be attempting to rush an egregious policy before EPA staff are furloughed that is not only wildly unpopular but also rolls back years of critical protections that keep toxic emissions out of the air we all breathe".

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The Environmental Protection Agency announced Friday that it was proposing new rules regarding the regulation of hazardous air pollutants, potentially making way for fewer restrictions on various pollutants in the future.

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.

The Obama administration also broadly accepted that it's hard to put a specific dollar-figure on some health benefits - for instance, avoiding lost IQ points in infants (or other fetal harm), which has been linked to pregnant women eating mercury-contaminated fish.

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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