Published: Mon, December 31, 2018
Science | By Michele Flores

EPA says ‘not necessary’ for coal plants to comply with mercury limits

EPA says ‘not necessary’ for coal plants to comply with mercury limits

President Donald Trump's administration announced Friday that the Environmental Protection Agency is relaxing Obama-era rules preventing coal-fired power plants from releasing mercury and other risky pollutants into the air.

Groups were quick to criticize the move, including the Environmental Law and Policy Center, as well as Democratic Rep.

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.

The National Mining Association welcomed the move, calling the mercury limits "punitive" and "massively unbalanced". Mercury harms the developing nervous systems of children and causes other severe health damage.

On Friday, the EPA said the 2011 rule will stay in place. The Obama administration estimated that the measure would prevent as many as 11,000 premature deaths from asthma, other respiratory diseases or heart attacks.

"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)."

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"We should not limit ourselves in the ongoing fight against this unsafe pollutant", said mercury expert Celia Chen of the Dartmouth Toxic Metals Superfund Research Program. "Regulators need the tools to strengthen mercury controls in the future if needed", she said. On Friday, Holmstead said the agency "managed to walk a very fine line" by revising a justification for the rule while leaving pollution protections in place.

Even though the EPA's mercury standards have faced court challenges, utilities spent more than $18 billion to comply with the requirements.

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. That's because it also costs money to continue operating that equipment.

The EPA proposal Friday would be another administration rollback of federal enforcement under the Clean Air Act. The standards help meet the country's commitments under the Minamata Convention on Mercury.

The Trump administration Friday announced a plan created to make it easier for coal-fired power plants, after almost a decade of restrictions, to once again release mercury and other pollutants linked to developmental disorders and respiratory illnesses into the atmosphere.

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