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SPRINGFIELD (Illinois News Connection/Public News Service) — Even as the country battles a respiratory pandemic, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has moved to weaken an air pollution standard.
The EPA finalized changes Thursday to the 2012 Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS). It is the first-ever national limits on emissions of mercury and other air pollutants from coal-fired power plants.
Browner: ‘EPA is only adjusting cost-benefit calculations’
Carol Browner is the board chair at the League of Conservation Voters and former EPA Administrator during the Clinton administration. She explains the agency isn’t outright scrapping the mercury standard. They are rather adjusting the calculations of its costs and benefits.
“This is very sinister what they’re up to here,” says Browner. “Because they’re really, really trying to radically change how the agency undertakes its cost/benefit analysis, and that can have very, very negative consequences on a lot of rule-making.”
EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler describes it as the agency “correcting the flawed cost finding” in the original rule. He argues that “no more mercury will be emitted into the air than before.”
Study: Mercury standard is faulty
In Illinois, the standards set expectations to prevent 570 premature deaths and create $4.7 billion in health benefits. This was in 2016. Nationwide, the rule has cut mercury emissions by about 86% since 2010.
A study released last week asserts that the EPA’s analysis of the mercury standard is faulty.
The report states it doesn’t account for electricity generation advances that have reduced costs. Additionally, it doesn’t account for the direct health benefits of reducing mercury emissions, including fewer heart attacks. This is according to report co-author and Harvard Kennedy School’s Practice of Public Policy professor Joe Aldy.
“On the benefits and the costs, EPA is ignoring what we have learned since 2011,” says Aldy. “I would say that the science and economics behind this decision is flawed – but in reality, there’s no science behind this decision. It’s simply just a flawed decision.”
The analysis estimated MATS would cost an estimated $10 billion for power plants to clean up pollution. However, Aldy says the benefits are far greater, ranging from $33 billion to $90 billion saved annually.
Reporting by Mary Schuermann Kuhlman; edited for SEO and readability by Jake Leonard
Illinois News Connection, a service of Public News Service, covers a broad range of issues with a focus on social services, growth, health care, environmental issues and state government. This coverage is made possible by funding from grants and contributions from individuals, non-profit and non-governmental organizations and foundations with an interest in seeing more news coverage on these and other subjects.