The Trump administration’s EPA is proposing another reversal of an Obama-era standard. The EPA said limiting mercury and other toxic emissions from coal- and oil-fired power plants is not cost-effective, therefore it should not be considered “appropriate and necessary.” In other words, they believe the regulations to reduce power plant emissions of mercury and other hazardous air pollutants are too expensive. These regulations are an unnecessary expense and should not be part of the law.
For now, the EPA is keeping the 2012 restrictions in place. Although only because the utilities have already spent billions of dollars to comply with them. If they do end up lifting the restriction though, environmental groups worry this will repeal the limits and make it harder to impose other regulations in the future. Critics also worry that this could undermine the justification for a range of other environmental rules as well, possibly making them more vulnerable to legal challenge.
On the other hand, The National Mining Association is pleased about the move, calling the mercury limits “punitive” and “massively unbalanced.” In a statement, the EPA said it is “providing regulatory certainty by transparently and accurately taking account of both costs and benefits.”
This is how they calculated the cost-benefit analysis according to NPR:
“In 2015, a court ordered the EPA to take into account not just the benefits of the mercury rule but also its cost to industry. In its new proposal, the EPA estimates that cost at $7.4 billion to $9.6 billion annually and the benefits at just $4 million to $6 million a year.”
This is how the cost-benefit analysis was calculated during the Obama era according to NPR:
“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. It said those “co-benefits” included preventing up to 11,000 premature deaths each year.”
People are calling the EPA’s new estimates outdated and said more recent research finds billions of dollars in public health benefits from reducing mercury emissions alone. Others are concerned about how this will impact our future. Clean Air Task Force Legal Director Ann Weeks said in a statement:
“What has changed now is the administration’s attitude towards public health.”
Mercury expert Celia Chen of the Dartmouth Toxic Metals Superfund Research Program said the warming climate, for example, might affect mercury’s impact on the environment but the EPA’s proposal could make it harder to address that. She said:
“We should not limit ourselves in the ongoing fight against this dangerous pollutant. Regulators need the tools to strengthen mercury controls in the future if needed.”
The Health Risks Of Mercury
As coal burns it releases mercury into the air. Once released it can cause health risks to people including neurological disorders, heart and lung problems and compromised immune systems. Babies developing in the womb and young children are especially at risk. The main source of exposure to mercury is through eating contaminated seafood.
For The Record
Records show that mercury emissions had been reduced by nearly 90 percent over the past decade. This advancement and improvement in air quality will suffer if there are no regulations. Janet McCabe, former acting assistant administrator of the Office of Air and Radiation at EPA during the Obama administration says:
“It’s not unreasonable to expect that if the standards go away there will be some number of utilities that will choose to no longer operate pollution controls that they’ve installed.”
Mercury pollution is a global problem that requires global action for the well-being of the country’s citizens. Your voice can make a difference. The EPA proposal is open to public comment for 60 days after it is posted in the Federal Register so make sure to make a statement!