Environment & Energy Report

EPA Says it Will Re-Examine Toxic Mercury Air Limits By Next Month

Oct. 17, 2018, 12:35 PM

The EPA plans to complete its re-examination of toxic air pollution limits, including mercury for power plants, by November, according to the agency’s fall regulatory agenda released Oct. 17.

The Environmental Protection Agency is reconsidering the economic basis for the 2012 limits that the Obama administration set for toxic air pollution that power plants emit (RIN: 2060-AT99). The agency said it won’t revise the standards, but is following the U.S. Supreme Court’s orders to re-examine how the Obama administration calculated the costs and benefits of reducing mercury and other toxic air pollutants from power plants.

The Supreme Court in 2015 required the EPA in Michigan v. EPA to take the power industry’s compliance costs into account when determining whether it was necessary to regulate toxic pollution. The agency a year later put out a subsequent determination supporting regulation after taking costs into account and slashed the benefits of implementing this rule.

Environmental Groups Meet with OMB

Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said the Trump administration disagreed with the way the Obama administration estimated compliance costs of $9.6 billion, while the benefits totaled $4 million. The EPA confirmed Oct. 1 that it has sent its draft mercury proposal to the White House Office of Management and Budget for review.

That White House office is reviewing the proposal and will address how the standards have been met by electricity generating utilities. The utilities claimed they met the toxic emissions limits and urged the EPA to leave the standards alone. The EPA said it is aware that the power sector has spent $18 billion to comply with this rule.

Environmental groups including the American Lung Association are meeting Oct. 17 with OMB and they plan to exhort the administration to keep the toxic air pollution limits in place, Janice Nolen, American Lung Association’s assistant vice president for national policy, told Bloomberg Environment Oct. 16.

“They don’t recognize indirect benefits from the rule and only want to count the benefits from the targeted reductions,” Nolen said. “If you are saving lives by actions that benefit people, you should recognize that. It’s not like its not happening, and you are recognizing it.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Amena H. Saiyid in Washington at asaiyid@bloombergenvironment.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Greg Henderson at ghenderson@bloombergenvironment.com

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