Trump EPA Says Mercury Limits On Coal Plants Are Not 'Necessary'

Trump EPA Says Mercury Limits On Coal Plants Are Not 'Necessary'

The Trump Administration has determined that it is unnecessary and too costly to regulate hazardous air pollutants (HAP) emanating from U.S. coal and oil-fired power plants as outlined in current mercury standards, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said in a press release on Friday.

Under the direction of acting administrator Andrew Wheeler, the EPA is now questioning whether it was appropriate to include these additional benefits.

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

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.

Mercury causes brain damage, learning disabilities and other birth defects in children, among other harm.

In 1990 Congress amended the Clean Air Act and advised the EPA to limit mercury emissions from a variety of industries.

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The proposal, which now goes up for public comment, is the latest Trump administration move that changes estimates of the costs and payoffs of regulations in arguing for relaxing Obama-era environmental protections.

Critics worry that revising the way the costs and health benefits of regulations are calculated could undermine the justification for a range of other environmental rules as well, possibly making them more vulnerable to legal challenge.

The 2011 Mercury and Air Toxic Standards, enacted under Barack Obama, the former president, led to an estimated $18 billion clean-up of mercury and other toxins from the smokestacks of coal-fired power stations. The federal government is required to take into account both the costs and health benefits when considering pollution regulations.

Overall, environmental groups say, federal and state efforts have cut mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants by 85 percent in roughly the last decade. 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 E.P.A.to 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 administrator has concluded that the identification of these benefits is not sufficient, in light of the gross imbalance of monetized costs", the EPA announcement read.

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. It's a very different calculus".

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