The Environmental Protection Agency, in a proposed reversal of yet another Obama-era rule, said rules preventing coal-fired power plants from releasing mercury should not be considered “appropriate and necessary.”
“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.
The proposal will be up for 60 days of public comment before a final ruling goes into effect. Andrew Wheeler, the acting EPA administration signed the proposal.
The National Mining Association praised the move, saying the mercury regulations are “punitive” and “massively unbalanced.”
Research shows that when coal is burned, it releases mercury into the air, posing a health risk, particularly for babies developing in the womb and young children. Elemental and methylmercury are toxic to the central and peripheral nervous systems, affecting the nervous, digestive and immune systems, lungs and kidneys. Mercury exposure may be fatal.
The mercury regulation also costs the coal industry $9.6 billion annually, making it among the most expensive regulations the EPA has ever had to enforce.
Since former President Barack Obama enacted the mercury regulations––known as the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards–– scientists say 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.”