The Environmental Protection Agency proposed yet another weakening of an Obama-era regulation on Friday, this time targeting toxic chemicals from oil and coal-fired power plants.
The regulation in question, the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS), was established in 2011. It was the first set of federal rules to limit hazardous pollution from coal-burning and oil-burning plants, targeting chemicals like mercury, a neurotoxin that can lead to tremors, respiratory failure, and death. Coal power plants are the biggest emitters of mercury.
According to the EPA’s own projections, these rules save upward of 17,000 lives per year in the United States. The Center for American Progress found that MATS reduced mercury emissions from power plants by 81 percent since going into effect.
“If finalized, it will leave the mercury reduction requirements vulnerable to rollback or further legal attack, and it puts at risk years of progress to reduce exposure to a known neurotoxin that accumulates in the environment,” said Janet McCabe, who served as the acting assistant administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation at the EPA under Obama, in an emailed statement. “The proposal also sets a very troubling precedent for how the EPA evaluates the impact of policy on public health.”