WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Trump administration on Friday said limits on mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants were unnecessary as they were too costly, sparking an outcry from environmentalists who feared the next step would be looser rules favoring the coal industry at the expense of public health.
Under the Mercury and Air Toxic Standards, or MATS, enacted under former President Barack Obama, coal-burning power plants were required to install expensive equipment to cut output of mercury, which can harm pregnant women and put infants and children at risk of developmental problems.
The Environmental Protection Agency left the 2011 emission standards in place but proposed using a different cost analysis to evaluate whether the regulation is needed, a move that paves the way for looser rules going forward. Its statement was issued on Friday during a partial government shutdown.
Since August, the Environmental Protection Agency has been reconsidering the justification for the rule. A coalition of electric utilities had said the looser rules were not needed since they have already invested billions of dollars in technology to cut emissions of the pollutant and comply.
EPA said it was “proposing that it is not ‘appropriate and necessary’ to regulate HAP (Hazardous Air Pollution) emissions from coal- and oil-fired power plants… because the costs of such regulation grossly outweigh the quantified HAP benefits.”