EPA proposes rule on mercury emissions that could spark lawsuits

EPA proposes easing regulation of mercury from coal plants

EPA proposes easing regulation of mercury from coal plants

Sen. Tom Carper issued a statement December 28 after the Environmental Protection Agency announced that is rolling back critical protections by asserting that it is no longer "appropriate and necessary" to regulate mercury and toxic air pollution from coal and oil-fired plants under the Mercury Air Toxics Standards.

It took 21 years before the EPA finalized the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards for coal-fired power plants.

Consequently, the Trump Administration's EPA is leaving the current MATS rule in place while undercutting the justification for the rule in such a way that could preclude more stringent mercury standards in the future, and could possibly set the stage for looser rules in the future. Any such change would trigger new rounds in what have already been years of court battles over regulating mercury pollution from coal plants.

The National Mining Association praised the move, saying the mercury regulations are "punitive" and "massively unbalanced". Mercury is a neurotoxin that can damage the brain and nervous system in young children, leading to lower IQ and impaired motor skills.

"There is nobody who operates power plants who is asking for the rule to go away", said Jeffrey R. Holmstead, a partner at the law firm Bracewell who served as EPA air chief under the second President George Bush.

The EPA proposal is open to public comment for 60 days after it is posted in the Federal Register. "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 statement announcing the proposed revision-which would eliminate the consideration of these "co-benefits"-the EPA said the cost of complying with the regulation "dwarfs" the monetized benefits in health".

Cyber attack hits USA newspaper distribution
A Tribune Publishing spokesperson didn't confirm the ransomware infection, but did say the incident was caused by "malware".

Wheeler, a noted former lobbyist for coal energy companies, was chosen by Trump as acting EPA administrator after Wheeler's predecessor, Scott Pruitt, was forced out over several embezzling scandals in July.

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

He and other opponents of the move said the Trump administration was playing with numbers, ignoring what Carper said were clear health, environmental and economic benefits to come up with a bottom line that suited the administration's deregulatory aims.

The EPA proposal Friday would be another administration rollback of federal enforcement under the Clean Air Act.

Coming one week into a government shutdown, and in the lull between Christmas and New Year, 'this low-key announcement shouldn't fool anyone - it is a big deal, with significant implications, ' McCabe said.

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