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’s Proposed Obama-era Rollbacks: Is Time on Our Side?

Under Scott Pruitt, the current head of the Environmental Protection Agency, a large number of Obama-era EPA regulations are under attack. Donald Trump promised to destroy Obama’s environmental protection legacy, simply because it was Obama’s legacy. Scott Pruitt intends to help Trump carry out his promise.

Currently, Scott Pruitt’s EPA has targeted more than 60 environmental regulations from the Obama era for demolition, delay, or suspension. As it does in other areas, such as education, health care, and gun safety policy, the Trump administration demonstrates that it values reversing anything done by the previous administration, as well as saying “no” to anything from “the left,” over the safety and health of its constituents.

Fortunately for Americans, undoing federal regulations is more complicated than simply ordering Scott Pruitt to make it so. The courts don’t look favorably on rolling back regulations simply because one doesn’t like the person who passed them. At least some of Scott Pruitt’s rollbacks have been challenged by the legal system; six have been reversed in court.

In his rush to overturn regulations, Scott Pruitt has often failed to follow many legal protocols, and has neglected to provide adequate supporting materials such as legal and scientific data to justify his proposals. This has resulted in sloppy and poorly crafted legal cases, which aren’t likely to hold up in court. An example is the attempted repeal of the Obama-era emissions law that aimed to reduce auto tailpipe emissions of greenhouse gases.

“If (it) gets challenged in court, I just don’t see how they provide anything that gives a technical justification to undo the rule,” said James McCargar, a former EPA senior policy analyst.

Although we should be vigilant, it is wise to remember that the laws passed during the Obama administration sometimes required years of careful scientific research and legal due diligence in order to withstand thorough examination in the courts. Similarly, they would take time to dismantle.

“You have to do the hard work of developing a rule that can withstand judicial scrutiny, even though it isn’t sexy,” says David Hayes, director of the State Energy & Environmental Impact Center at NYU School of Law.  “Pruitt hasn’t been willing to do that, and that’s why he isn’t really having much of an impact.”

No matter how much Scott Pruitt wishes he could take down Obama’s environmental legacy with the swipe of a pen or the tap of a gavel, it also takes time and due diligence to undo laws. Or, in Scott Pruitt’s case, many of his proposed repeals won’t even make it to the “pending” phase before the courts strike them down. Perhaps we can dare to hope that the haphazardness of Scott Pruitt’s attempts will continue to keep our current environmental regulations in place, at least until a new administration.

EPA to Roll Back Obama-era Emissions, Fuel Economy Standards | CBS This Morning [2018-04-03]

Trump’s EPA to Roll Back Obama-era Fuel Economy Standards  | Fox News [2018-04-03]