News of the week
EPA reinstates regulations for mercury and other toxins on coal-fired power plants
In yet another reversal of the Trump administration, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced on Tuesday, February 1, that it was reaffirming “the scientific, economic, and legal underpinnings of the 2012 Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) for power plants.”
With this announcement, the EPA set itself back to the early days of the Obama administration, regulating mercury and other toxins that are emitted by coal-fired power plants. The announcement comes in response to an executive order signed by President Biden on his first day in the Oval Office in January 2021.
How we got here
In 2012, under Barack Obama, the EPA concluded that requiring power plants to significantly reduce their mercury emissions was justified because the costs of compliance were outweighed by the healthcare savings of individuals suffering illnesses caused by the pollutants. (Never mind that it’s just nicer not to get sick in the first place.)
States sued, and in 2015 the Supreme Court, in a 5-to-4 decision, ruled that the Obama administration, when it established the 2012 restrictions on mercury, did not properly consider the costs these regulations would impose on industry. Subsequently, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that the regulations could remain in place while the EPA figured out its response to the Supreme Court decision. The basic issue was that the math and facts the EPA used to back up its claim were not robust. The lower court gave the agency time to do its homework.
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