Trump’s EPA says limits on mercury emissions from coal plants not necessary

Uncovered coal trains

Uncovered coal trains

On Friday, the Trump Administration's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it did not think that current mercury emissions rules placed on coal-fired power plants were "appropriate and necessary", based on the agency's revised look at the costs and benefits of the rule.

Under former President Barack Obama, the USA enacted Mercury and Air Toxic Standards (MATS) in 2011 which forced coal-fired power plants to cut mercury output.

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.

In an announcement Friday, the EPA proposes what would be another Trump administration rollback of federal enforcement under the Clean Air Act.

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.

"EPA has managed to walk a very fine line", said Jeffrey Holmstead, a partner at the firm Bracewell who represents several utilities and who headed the agency's air and radiation office under President George W. Bush. Mercury harms children and causes severe health damage.

Representatives of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the U.S. have proposed going back on a previous endorsement of limits on mercury pollution.

"Reworking the mercury rule, which the E.P.A. considers the priciest clean air regulation ever put forth in terms of annual cost to industry, would represent a victory for the coal industry, and in particular for Robert E. Murray, an important former client of Mr. Wheeler's from his days as a lobbyist".

EPA said it was "proposing that it is not 'appropriate and necessary" to regulate HAP (Hazardous Air Pollution) emissions from coal- and oil-fired power plants... because the costs of such regulation grossly outweigh the quantified HAP benefits'.

"The Trump EPA's proposal to weaken mercury and air toxics pollution reduction standards threatens children's health and the Great Lakes", Executive Director Howard Learner of the Environmental Law and Policy Center said in a statement.

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