Trump Proposal Would Allow Power Plants To Pollute More

EPA proposes rule change that would limit pollution control for years to come

A coal-burning power plant in Colstrip Mont. Oct. 15 2018

The Environmental Protection Agency is considering backing off of its regulation of toxic mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants.

"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".

The Environmental Protection Agency proposed a rule to change the way the government calculates benefits of restricting mercury emissions from coal plants.

The agency proposed "to determine that it is not "appropriate and necessary" to regulate HAP (hazardous air pollutant) emissions from power plants under Section 112 of the Clean Air Act".

In arguing for the limits, environmentalists have pointed at unquantifiable benefits such as reduced health care costs, cleaner air and cleaner water. Since the Mercury and Air Toxics Rule was issued in 2012, both electric prices and mercury pollution have gone down.

Consequently, the Trump Administration's EPA is leaving the current MATS rule in place while undercutting the justification for the rule in such a way that could preclude more stringent mercury standards in the future, and could possibly set the stage for looser rules in the future.

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

While many power companies "actually lobbied the administration to leave" the rule in place, Holmstead said, "the Trump folks couldn't bring themselves to defend" the previous administration's conclusion that the rule was "appropriate and necessary".

The Obama administration found up to $6 million annually in health benefits directly from curbing mercury.

Mercury exposure is linked to developmental disorders and respiratory illnesses.

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 new proposal fundamentally changes that approach.

The proposed rule recognizes that difficult-to-quantify benefits exist, but said "the administrator has concluded that the identification of these benefits is not sufficient, in light of the gross imbalance of monetized costs".

Environmental advocacy groups criticized the move, while the National Mining Association praised it. "It's a very different calculus".

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