EPA Argues Loosening Rules Limiting Mercury Emissions From Coal Fueled Power Plants
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a letter to the White House on Friday September 28, 2018 arguing that rules limiting mercury emissions from coal fueled power plants should be loosened because much of the benefit is not directly from reducing mercury emissions but rather other harmful pollutants that are also reduced because of this rule (“co-benefits”).
Under President Barack Obama, the EPA estimated that it would cost utilities $9.6 billion a year to comply with the new standards, while limiting mercury would translate into merely $6 million in public health benefits. But the EPA estimated at the time that the soot and nitrogen oxide reductions that would accompany cuts to mercury pollution would save between $37 billion to $90 billion in annual health costs and lost workdays by preventing as many as 11,000 premature deaths and 4,700 heart attacks.
But under President Trump, the EPA has published proposals to loosen carbon dioxide limits on power plants, arguing that it was inappropriate to count “co-benefits” such as having less soot in the air. And in a proposed rollback last month of a rule aimed at curbing leaks of hydrofluorocarbons, a potent greenhouse gas, the administration eliminated language in its analysis saying that children, elderly and the poor “are most vulnerable to climate-related health effects.”
In other words, “the current reconsideration may eliminate health benefits from reducing pollutants not directly covered by the rule, making it much more difficult for the EPA to justify the costs of requiring further emissions reductions.”