EPA to keep Obama-era mercury rules, but make it harder to tighten them

Smokestacks at Pacificorp’s 1,000MW coal-fired power plant on October 9, 2017 outside Huntington, Utah.

Enlarge / Smokestacks at Pacificorp’s 1,000MW coal-fired power plant on October 9, 2017 outside Huntington, Utah. (credit: George Frey/Getty Images)

According to a report from Bloomberg, the Trump administration’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is not considering a roll back of Obama-era rules regulating industrial emissions of mercury. When the rules were codified in 2015, they required coal plants to add expensive technology to minimize the amount of mercury spewed into the air. Despite this change of course for the regulation-averse EPA, the agency is reportedly considering a rewrite of the legal justification for the mercury rules that would make it harder for those rules to be tightened in the future.

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Trump campaigned on rolling back supposedly onerous regulations on coal plants. His appointees, including former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, targeted the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards as a key reason for the decline of coal in the US. However, while the coal industry was the most vocal in opposing the 2015 rules, in the subsequent years surviving coal-burning power plants have largely adapted to the regulatory environment. Coal mining companies like Murray Energy are among the firms still pushing the Trump administration to roll back the mercury rules, while utility and energy companies with coal plants, having already made the necessary investments, are pushing the administration to keep the mercury rules.

Per Bloomberg, keeping the three-year-old mercury rules intact while weakening the justification behind them is the Trump administration’s attempt to appease both sides of this issue. While power companies would keep mercury reduction technology on at their plants (and not face competition from potential new plants without such technology), the EPA would also “recalculate the cost and benefits of the mercury rule in a way that dramatically shrinks its estimated potential health gains,” Bloomberg writes. Changing the official cost/benefit analysis of the rule could make it easier for opponents to prevent stricter mercury rules in the future. 

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Martin is an enthusiastic programmer, a webdeveloper and a young entrepreneur. He is intereted into computers for a long time. In the age of 10 he has programmed his first website and since then he has been working on web technologies until now. He is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of BriefNews.eu and PCHealthBoost.info Online Magazines. His colleagues appreciate him as a passionate workhorse, a fan of new technologies, an eternal optimist and a dreamer, but especially the soul of the team for whom he can do anything in the world.

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