Have you been missing mercury pollution in the air? If so, there’s good news out of Washington DC: The Trump administration is laying the groundwork to weaken restrictions on mercury and other toxic emissions from coal-fired power plants, the New York Times reports, adding that the Obama-era Mercury and Air Toxics Standards have resulted in a decline of some 80% of mercury pollution from power plants since they were adopted in 2011. The restrictions will remain in place for now, per NPR, which notes that billions of dollars have already been spent to comply with them. But, the Guardian reports, the EPA is taking another look at the rationale for why they are needed.
In a notice signed by acting EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler on Thursday, that agency says, “After considering the cost of compliance relative to the … benefits of regulation, the EPA proposes to find that it is not ‘appropriate and necessary’” to regulate emissions. The EPA estimates that it costs up to $9.6 billion a year to comply with the restrictions, per NPR, and that the monetary benefits top out at $6 million annually. The Obama administration, however, found the restrictions to result in some $80 billion in annual health benefits, such as preventing thousands of premature deaths each year. According to the Times, mercury and other pollutants from coal-fired power plants are linked to developmental disorders and respiratory illnesses. (Acting EPA Administrator Scott Wheeler is a former coal lobbyist.)