EPA takes aim at Obama-era regulation of mercury at coal plants

EPA takes aim at Obama-era regulation of mercury at coal plants

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing changes to narrow the way it calculates the health benefits of pollutant limitations, targeting an Obama-era regulation on the mercury expelled by coal power plants.

The 2011 Mercury and Air Toxic Standards, enacted under Barack Obama, the former USA president, led to an estimated $18 billion clean-up of mercury and other toxins from the smokestacks of coal-fired power stations.

Environmental groups say federal and state limits have helped cut mercury emissions from power plants by 85 percent since 2006. "The Trump EPA has decided - despite the recommendations of scientists, public health experts and elected officials on both sides of the aisle - that it is no longer "appropriate and necessary" to protect the development of infants' brains from the serious threats posed by mercury power plant pollution", said Carper.

It said cost of the Mercury and Air Toxic Standards Act ranged from $7.4 to $9.6 billion a year with benefits from regulating hazardous air pollutant emissions ranging from $4 to $6 million a year. Coal-fired power plants are the largest single source of mercury pollution.

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Research shows that when coal is burned, it releases mercury into the air, posing a health risk, particularly for babies developing in the womb and young children. Mercury harms children and causes severe health damage.

"Although an analysis of all benefits and costs in accordance with generally recognized benefit-cost analysis practices is appropriate for informing the public about the potential effects of any regulatory action. this does not mean that equal consideration of all benefits and costs, including co-benefits, is appropriate for the specific statutory appropriate and necessary finding called for under CAA section 112 (n)(1)(A)."
It's the latest administration effort on behalf of the country's coal industry.

He and other opponents of the move said the Trump administration was playing with numbers, ignoring what Carper said were clear health, environmental and economic benefits to come up with a bottom line that suited the administration's deregulatory aims.

Coming one week into a government shutdown, and in the lull between Christmas and New Year, 'this low-key announcement shouldn't fool anyone - it is a big deal, with significant implications, ' McCabe said.

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