The Trump administration on Friday targeted an Obama-era regulation credited with helping dramatically reduce toxic mercury pollution from coal-fired power plants, saying the benefits to human health and the environment may not be worth the cost of the regulation.
The Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) rule has been in place for years, and energy companies that own coal-fired power plants are already in compliance. In a letter to the EPA last summer, utilities and regulatory and labor groups said mercury emissions had been reduced by almost 90 percent over the past decade.
"The Trump Administration is providing regulatory certainty by transparently and accurately taking account of both costs and benefits", the EPA said in a news release Friday. Mercury harms the developing nervous systems of children and causes other severe health damage.
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 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'.
Environmental advocacy groups criticized the move, while the National Mining Association praised it.
By contrast, the Obama administration had calculated an additional $80 billion in health benefits because particulate matter and other toxic pollutants are also reduced when utilities limit mercury. "With this proposal, EPA has chose to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, and all Americans will suffer as a result", said Carper.
"Once again, the Trump administration is acting in a way that will adversely affect the health and safety of those living from coast to coast".
Therefore the new EPA analysis states the health benefits of mercury reduction lies between $4 million and $6 million.
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.
The proposal, which now goes up for public comment before any final administration approval, would leave the current mercury regulation in place.
Janet McCabe, a former air-quality official in the Obama administration's EPA, called the proposal part of "the quiet dismantling of the regulatory framework" for the federal government's environmental protections.