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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 12/28/18

With "Unconscionable Rollback," Trump EPA Lays Groundwork for Coal Industry to Release More Mercury Into the Air

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Ignoring public health benefits, a Trump EPA analysis that could set a dangerous precedent for future regulations claims mercury emissions limits for dirty energy power plants aren't "appropriate and necessary."

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer


(Image by (Photo: Jack Sem, Semtrio.com/Flickr/cc))   Details   DMCA

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In a move decried by environmentalists as "both stunningly immoral and completely unnecessary," the Trump administration just proposed "an unconscionable rollback to serve the coal industry at the expense of all Americans, especially our children," that could also stymie future efforts to impose federal public health regulations.

Building on President Donald Trump's two-year track record of gutting his predecessor's environmental rules, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a new analysis claiming that a regulation limiting how much mercury and other pollutants oil- and coal-fired power plants can emit isn't "appropriate and necessary," disputing the agency's conclusions under former President Barack Obama.

As the New York Times reported Friday:

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"Trump's new proposal does not repeal the regulation, known as the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS), but it would lay the groundwork for doing so by weakening a key legal justification for the measure. The long-term impact would be significant: It would weaken the ability of the EPA 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."

Janet McCabe, who ran the EPA's air office under Obama, told the Times, "There is a likelihood that this rule-making will be the administration's flagship effort to permanently change the way the federal government considers health benefits."

When crafting the regulation, the Obama EPA considered not only the direct gains of curbing mercury pollution, but also public health impacts such as fewer asthama attacks and premature deaths. Under notoriously pro-coal Trump, the agency is now, as Bloomberg News put it, "effectively ignoring those so-called co-benefits and focusing only on the direct potential benefits from slashing mercury emissions."

Ex-coal lobbyist and current EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler "is attacking the foundational building blocks for these critical protections," declared Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) president Fred Krupp. In spite of the fact that much of the industry complies with MATS, which enjoys widespread public support, "and in spite of all common sense, Wheeler is plowing ahead."

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