Wednesday, 20 March, 2019

EPA targets Obama crackdown on mercury from coal plants

Uncovered coal trains Enlarge An eastbound Norfolk Southern Corp. unit coal train passes through Waddy
Cary Marshall | 29 December, 2018, 20:06

The Environmental Protection Agency, in a proposed reversal of yet another Obama-era rule, said rules preventing coal-fired power plants from releasing mercury should not be considered "appropriate and necessary".

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.

A study published this month by Harvard University's School of Public Health said coal-fired power plants are the top source of mercury in the United States, accounting for almost half of mercury emissions in 2015.

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 proposal, which now goes up for public comment before any final administration approval, would leave the current mercury regulation in place.

More news: Mastermind of Chinese consulate terror attack killed alongside five other militants

Mercury causes brain damage, learning disabilities and other birth defects in children, among other harm.

EPA employees worked through the week last week despite the government shutdown, but the Friday MATS rule justification revision is likely to be the last action the EPA takes until government funding is restored.

But the new EPA finding would conclude it's not "appropriate" for the agency to regulate the toxic emissions.

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. Any such change would trigger new rounds in what have already been years of court battles over regulating mercury pollution from coal plants. But at the same time, the administration is advancing a broader effort to narrow what the government counts as benefits when crafting air rules.

Senator Tom Carper, the ranking Democrat on the US Senate's Environment and Public Works Committee, spoke out against the move.

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