Monday, 25 March, 2019

The EPA Proposed Changing How It Calculates Regulatory Health Benefits

The Dave Johnson coal-fired power plant spews in Glenrock Wyo. The EPA is revisiting a 2011 rule limiting mercury emissions from coal plants EPA proposes easing regulation of mercury from coal plants
Sandra Phillips | 31 December, 2018, 05:49

The proposal will be up for 60 days of public comment before a final ruling goes into effect. Mercury can cause brain damage, learning disabilities and birth defects in children, as well as problems for women during pregnancy. "Since then, scientists have said, mercury pollution from power plants has declined more than 80 percent nationwide".

Although the EPA's proposal does not eliminate the regulations outright, it sets the stage for weakening them altogether, particularly, as The New York Times observes, in weakening "the ability of the E.P.A.to impose new regulations in the future by adjusting the way the agency measures the benefits of curbing pollutants, giving less weight to the potential health gains".

In keeping in place the Obama-era standards on mercury emissions, Trump officials are acknowledging the billions of dollars companies have already spent in upgrades to comply.

On Friday, Holmstead said the agency "managed to walk a very fine line" by revising a justification for the rule while leaving pollution protections in place.

It's the latest administration effort on behalf of the country's coal industry. "With this proposal, EPA has chose to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, and all Americans will suffer as a result", said Carper. Coal power plants in this country are the largest single manmade source of mercury pollutants, which enters the food chain through fish and other items that people consume. With this action, EPA is also setting a unsafe 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.

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Therefore the new EPA analysis states the health benefits of mercury reduction lies between $4 million and $6 million.

The EPA said the Trump administration was "providing regulatory certainty" by more accurately estimating the costs and benefits...

Sen. Tom Carper of DE, the top Democrat on the Senate's Environment and Public Works Committee, condemned the Trump administration's move.

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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