Friday, 18 January, 2019

EPA proposes new rule that could allow fewer restrictions on toxins

EPA proposes easing regulation of mercury from coal plants Trump’s EPA To Weaken Rule Limiting Coal Plant Mercury Emissions
Theresa Hayes | 31 December, 2018, 05:46

President Donald Trump's new proposal does not repeal the regulation, known as the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, but it would lay the groundwork for doing so by weakening a key legal justification for the measure.

"Although an analysis of all benefits and costs in accordance with generally recognized benefit-cost analysis practices is appropriate for informing the public about the potential effects of any regulatory action. this does not mean that equal consideration of all benefits and costs, including co-benefits, is appropriate for the specific statutory appropriate and necessary finding called for under CAA section 112 (n)(1)(A)."
With this action, EPA is also setting a risky precedent that a federal agency - charged with protecting the environment and public health - will no longer factor in all the clear health, environmental and economics benefits of clean air policies, such as reducing cancer and birth defects.

The Environmental Protection Agency proposed a rule to change the way the government calculates benefits of restricting mercury emissions from coal plants.

On Friday, the EPA said the 2011 rule will stay in place.

"EPA has managed to walk a very fine line", said Jeffrey Holmstead, a partner at the firm Bracewell who represents several utilities and who headed the agency's air and radiation office under President George W. Bush.

Once the proposal appears in the federal register sometime in the coming weeks, the New York Times reports, the public will have 60 days to comment before any final changes are made. Mercury is a neurotoxin that can damage the brain and nervous system in young children, leading to lower IQ and impaired motor skills.

While many power companies "actually lobbied the administration to leave" the rule in place, Holmstead said, "the Trump folks couldn't bring themselves to defend" the previous administration's conclusion that the rule was "appropriate and necessary".

Howard Learner, the executive director of the Environmental Law and Policy Center, added he felt the decision would threaten famous American waters.

"The administrator has concluded that the identification of these benefits is not sufficient, in light of the gross imbalance of monetized costs", the EPA announcement read. "It's a very different calculus".