Wednesday, 20 March, 2019


EPA proposes making it harder to limit mercury emissions

EPA proposes making it harder to limit mercury emissions EPA proposes making it harder to limit mercury emissions
Kristine Garrett | 31 December, 2018, 17:15

As his second year comes to a close, agencies have set the regulatory wheels in motion to weaken or repeal almost a dozen Obama-era restrictions on air and water pollution or planet-warming emissions of carbon dioxide, including a plan to reduce the number of waterways that are protected from pollutants and another making it easier for utilities to build new coal plants.

Under the direction of acting administrator Andrew Wheeler, the EPA is now questioning whether it was appropriate to include these additional benefits.

The EPA said it would take comments on its proposal for the next 60 days and hold at least one public hearing before making a final ruling.

In a statement, the EPA said Friday the administration was "providing regulatory certainty" by more accurately estimating the costs and benefits of the Obama administration crackdown on mercury and other toxic emissions from smokestacks. Mercury emitted into the air can end up in soil and water, where it has "toxic effects on the nervous, digestive and immune systems, and on lungs, kidneys, skin and eyes", in addition to causing developmental defects in children and babies, according to the World Health Organization.

The EPA's action, the release added, only proposes to correct flaws in MATS supplemental findings and is not proposing to "de-list" such power plants from the list of sources that are regulated under the Clean Air Act.

President Barack Obama in contrast cited $80 billion in health benefits annually, including preventing 11,000 premature deaths, 4,700 heart attacks and 130,000 asthma attacks. "The misguided proposed changes leave MATS legally vulnerable and foolishly make it harder to strengthen mercury pollution reduction standards in the future to better protect children's and women's health, and Great Lakes fisheries". 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 shift could have implications for public health protections across the federal government, experts said. Weeks called the EPA's estimates outdated and said more recent research finds billions of dollars in public health benefits from reducing mercury emissions alone.

The National Mining Association praised the move, saying the mercury regulations are "punitive" and "massively unbalanced". For that reason, the original rule argued against using a strict cost-benefit analysis to decide whether the regulation should be imposed, said Joseph Goffman, executive director of Harvard Law School's Environmental and Energy Law Program. "It's a very different calculus".

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