Biden administration restores Obama-era mercury rules for power plants, eyes more regulations in coming months


The Biden administration on Friday finalized a decision to reestablish Obama-era rules that require coal and oil-fired power plants to reduce toxic pollutants, including mercury and acid gas, that come out of their smokestacks.

Mercury is a neurotoxin with several health impacts, including harmful effects on children’s brain development. And while the updated rule significantly benefits public health for communities around these kinds of power plants, it also has the effect of requiring plants to cut down on planet-warming pollution that comes from burning coal to generate electricity.

President Joe Biden’s Environmental Protection Agency announced early last year that it intended to undo a Trump-era rollback of the 2012 mercury pollution rules, one of many Trump-era environmental decisions it has reversed.

“This is a really good day for public health in this country,” EPA Deputy Administrator Janet McCabe told CNN. “We’re talking about mercury, arsenic, acid gases; these are dangerous pollutants that impact people’s health.”

The EPA estimates the 2012 rule brought down mercury emissions from power plants by 86% by 2017, while acid gas emissions were reduced by 96%.

McCabe said the EPA is currently working on its own, stronger mercury standard that it expects to propose “not too long from now” and finalize before the end of Biden’s first term.

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CNN, 17-02-23