Trump Plans to Roll Back Mercury Emissions Regulation

The Trump administration’s latest reversal of Obama-era environmental regulations is a partial rollback of the rule on mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants. In 2011, under President Obama, the EPA required power plants to reduce the amount of mercury and other pollutants coming out of their smokestacks by 90 percent over five years. By 2016, the industry was fully compliant, and mercury emissions were significantly reduced. The Trump administration, however, says the cost of enforcing the regulation on mercury emissions far outweighs any health benefits.

Mercury is a potent neurotoxin that can cause birth defects, learning disabilities, brain damage, and death. It can accumulate over time, contaminating such things as the fish we eat. Some of the other pollutants emitted with mercury, including soot and nitrogen oxide, can cause heart and lung disease.

The Obama administration calculated that the installation of pollution controls would cost the industry approximately $9.6 billion a year, and would amount to about $6 million a year in health benefits associated with reduced mercury emissions. Factoring in the reduction of the pollutants that accompany mercury emissions, however, they calculated that the public health benefits would be between $37 billion to $90 billion a year.

Trump’s EPA, however, disputes those calculations, calling them “fuzzy math.”

Acting EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler calls the health benefits associated with reducing the other pollutants “co-benefits.” “…They are incidental, and they’re not directly tied to mercury. And so we should exclude those altogether” from the calculations.

This, then, changes the math, and reduces the apparent health benefit of the mercury emission regulation. As a result, Trump’s EPA says utilities will no longer have to comply with it in the future.

The industry itself, however, has expressed the desire to keep the mercury emission policy in place. They have already spent the money on the equipment to reduce emissions, and “would consider it a competitive disadvantage if suddenly things were reversed and they take those scrubbers off,” according to Juliet Eilperin of PBS NewsHour.

It appears that even though the Trump administration continues to chip away at Obama-era environmental regulations, coal-fired power plants will continue to comply with the mercury emissions regulation, even if it is overturned.

How Trump’s EPA is changing the public health benefits around mercury |
PBS NewsHour  [2018-12-28]

Trump Administration Wants To Roll Back Mercury Emissions Limit |
Wochit Politics [2018-12-28]

Scott Pruitt Resigns from “Transformative Work”

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt resigned on July 5, 2018, keeping Team Trump in the lead for the number of White House staff departures. Though Pruitt is resigning amid numerous scandals in which he figures, some who know Pruitt hold him up as a “man of God.” Scott Pruitt, a Southern Baptist evangelical Christian, himself claims to believe that God put him in the position to serve Donald Trump. His resignation letter, full of references to “blessing” Trump, says as much. Below is a portion of the letter.

“My desire in service to you has always been to bless you as you make important decisions for the. American people. I believe you are serving as president today because of God’s providence. I believe the same providence brought me into your service. I pray as I have served you that I have blessed you and enabled you to effectively lead the American people.”

Scott Pruitt’s career has focused largely on faith-based issues. As a young attorney, he worked for the Rutherford Institute, a non-profit conservative organization. His first legal case was a lawsuit against the Oklahoma Department of Human Services for alleged infringement on the religious freedoms of his client.

Citing the “transformative work” taking place under Trump’s leadership, and with himself as head of the EPA, Scott Pruitt went on to say, “However, the unrelenting attacks on me personally, my family, are unprecedented and have taken a sizable toll on all of us.”

It has been a theme of late, especially during the advent of the Trump administration, for evangelicals to say that they are misunderstood, discriminated against for their beliefs, and even persecuted. No doubt, in the days to come, there will be a faction of evangelicals who rush to Pruitt’s defense, citing “persecution.”

Sometimes, allegations of “attacks” on one’s beliefs, or of the denial of religious freedom, are warranted. And yet, when one is associated with as much corruption as is Scott Pruitt, can anyone really say that the pressure on him to resign, and the subsequent widespread relief at his doing so, is “religious persecution”?

Scott Pruitt is the subject of over a dozen ethics investigations, which will continue despite his stepping down. Below are just a few examples of recent allegations against Scott Pruitt:

  • Pruitt used taxpayer money for personal items, including using $3,230 to purchase personalized journals and pens at $130 each from a luxury jewelry store.
  • Pruitt accepted gifts and favors from, and hobnobbed with, people in industries he was supposed to regulate, including the coal industry, the National Mining Association, and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.
  • An EPA whistleblower reported that Scott Pruitt and some of his staff kept a secret calendar for meetings that were possibly controversial, such as those with industry officials. This violates federal laws against hiding or falsifying public records.

It would be interesting to know what goes on in the mind of anyone who considers himself to be a “servant of God,” yet knowingly commits not one or two, but an ongoing series of plainly unethical acts. What does Scott Pruitt tell himself, and how does he reconcile “godly servanthood” with his corruptness?

Key Trump ally Scott Pruitt forced to resign | Al Jazeera English [2018-07-06]

Scott Pruitt resigns from the White House amid negative allegations: report | Fox Business [2018-07-05]