Published: Mon, December 31, 2018
Sci-tech | By Jackie Newman

EPA says regulation of mercury emissions not "appropriate and necessary"

EPA says regulation of mercury emissions not

Although the EPA's proposal does not eliminate the regulations outright, it sets the stage for weakening them altogether, particularly, as The New York Times observes, in weakening "the ability of the 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".

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.

Under former President Barack Obama, the USA enacted Mercury and Air Toxic Standards (MATS) in 2011 which forced coal-fired power plants to cut mercury output.

"The Trump EPA's proposal to weaken mercury and air toxics pollution reduction standards threatens children's health and the Great Lakes", Executive Director Howard Learner of the Environmental Law and Policy Center said in a statement.

The public will have 60 days to comment on it before a final rule is issued.

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.

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The EPA said the proposal is meant to "correct flaws".

The original rule required power plants to reduce emissions of mercury and other toxic pollutants by more than 90 percent over five years. Mercury harms the developing nervous systems of children and causes other severe health damage.

EPA employees worked through the week last week despite the government shutdown, but the Friday MATS rule justification revision is likely to be the last action the EPA takes until government funding is restored.

In arguing for the limits, environmentalists have pointed at unquantifiable benefits such as reduced health care costs, cleaner air and cleaner water.

Friday's move is the latest by the Trump administration that changes estimates of the costs and payoffs of regulations as part of an overhaul of Obama-era environmental protections.

The EPA has "decided to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory" after the successful cleanup of toxins from the country's coal-plant smokestacks, Carper said.

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