EPA proposes easing regulation of mercury from coal plants

EPA proposes easing regulation of mercury from coal plants

"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.

A study published this month by Harvard University's School of Public Health said coal-fired power plants are the top source of mercury in the United States, accounting for almost half of mercury emissions in 2015.

EPA employees worked through the week last week despite the government shutdown, but the Friday MATS rule justification revision is likely to be the last action the EPA takes until government funding is restored.

"The Trump EPA's proposal to weaken mercury and air toxics pollution reduction standards threatens children's health and the Great Lakes", Executive Director Howard Learner of the Environmental Law and Policy Center said in a statement.

A proposal by acting EPA Administrator, Andrew R. Wheeler, signed yesterday and submitted by the the EPA would lay the ground work for repealing Mercury and Air Toxics Standards first enacted in 2011 according to the New York Times.

USA coal-fired power generation has fallen more than 40 percent since a peak in 2007, while natural gas-fired generation soared by about the same amount, according to the Energy Information Administration.

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

The proposal will be up for 60 days of public comment before a final ruling goes into effect.

It's also the administration's latest proposed move on behalf of the US coal industry, which has been struggling in the face of competition from natural gas and other cheaper, cleaner forms of energy.

Friday's move is the latest by the Trump administration that changes estimates of the costs and payoffs of regulations as part of an overhaul of Obama-era environmental protections.

In a draft of its proposed rule (PDF), Trump's EPA said that the Obama-era EPA had erred by quantifying the co-benefits of reducing other, non-mercury pollutants in its analysis.

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