EPA to rollback Obama-era pollution standards for coal power plants

Earlier in December, the Trump administration announced its plan to rollback the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards rule, an Obama-era regulation which mandated that coal-fired power plants have technology to capture carbon dioxide emissions.

The MATS rule was expected to have produced $4–$6 million in health benefits, as well as $37–$90 billion due to cleaner air by staving off 11,000 premature deaths, 4,700 heart attacks and 130,000 asthma attacks annually.

President Trump’s rollback of coal regulations is his latest in a series of reforms ensure votes in coal country. At an August political rally in West Virginia, Trump touted the benefits of coal, stating:

“We love clean, beautiful West Virginia coal. That’s indestructible stuff. In times of war, in times of conflict, you can blow up those windmills, you can blow up pipelines, you can do a lot of things to those solar panels, but you know what you can’t hurt? Coal.”

Trump has put much effort into saving the coal industry, but recent data suggests his efforts are misplaced. A recent report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration states American coal consumption is expected to be at its lowest level on record in 2018. This is largely due to the closing of coal plants and the use of alternative energy sources such as natural gas.

The rollback of environmental standards are expected to have detrimental health impacts on the population, as the Trump administration’s own analysis reveals the new rules could lead to as many as 1,400 premature deaths annually by 2030 and up to 15,000 new cases of upper respiratory conditions, including an increase in bronchitis, resulting in thousands of missed school days.

Despite the preponderance of evidence surrounding global warming, Trump has continued to ignore the circumstances.  In late November, the EPA released a climate report detailing the intensifying environmental damage across the country.

Despite the evidence, Trump continues to deny any environmental problems exist, stating: “One of the problems that a lot of people like myself, we have very high levels of intelligence but we’re not necessarily such believers. You look at our air and our water, and it’s right now at a record clean. As to whether or not it’s man-made and whether or not the effects that you’re talking about are there, I don’t see it.”

Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist and the current EPA administrator, has also advocated for the repeal of Obama-era climate reforms, detailing them as infeasible and stating the former administration’s regulations were “disingenuous” because they “knew that the technology was not adequately demonstrated.”

Trump’s reforms have sparked much outrage, and environmentalists have responded with sharp criticism.

David Doniger, senior strategic director of the Climate & Clean Energy program at the Natural Resources Defense Council spoke out against the regulations, stating:

“This is just one more foolhardy move by a misguided administration that will be judged harshly by future generations.”

Mary Anne Hitt, senior director of Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign also commented, “Today’s proposal is nothing more than another thoughtless attempt by the Trump Administration to prop up their backwards and false narrative about reviving coal at the expense of science, public safety, and reality.”

Canceling environmental protection policies carry heavy ramifications, and if more rollbacks are enacted, the U.S. could witness a significant increase in environmental destruction.

As to the MATS specifically, the EPA will collect public comments on the proposal for 60 days and hold a public hearing on the proposed rule change.


[Washington Post] [New York Times] [CNBC] [Photo courtesy American Geosciences Institute]

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