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

31 December, 2018, 05:48 | Author: Kelly Sanders
  • EPA proposes easing regulation of mercury from coal plants

The Trump administration will consider abolishing a regulation that has helped dramatically reduce mercury pollution from coal-fired power stations, saying the costs outweigh the health benefits.

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. The federal government is required to take into account both the costs and health benefits when considering pollution regulations. Andrew Wheeler, the acting EPA administration signed the proposal.

On Friday, the EPA said the 2011 rule will stay in place.

The public will have 60 days to comment on it before a final rule is issued. Mercury is a neurotoxin that can damage the brain and nervous system in young children, leading to lower IQ and impaired motor skills.

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 exposure is linked to developmental disorders and respiratory illnesses.


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.

According to the Times reporting, the new proposed rule would change the way the EPA determines the benefits of limiting different types of emissions, potentially making it more hard in the future for the agency to create new regulations.

It's the latest administration effort on behalf of the country's coal industry.

Senator Tom Carper, the ranking Democrat on the US Senate's Environment and Public Works Committee, spoke out against the move.

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

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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