EPA moves to undo tougher pollution limits on coal plants

Posted April 15, 2017

A retiring Climate Change Adviser with the Environmental Protection Agency is calling on EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to visit Alaska to see the effects of climate change first hand.

Obama finalized the Electric Power Generating Rule (ELG Rule) within the Clean Water Act in 2015, which would have helped prevent coal industries from polluting public waterways with toxic metals like lead, arsenic and mercury.

The Union for Concerned Scientists, Sierra Club and Earthjustice plan to jointly file a motion Wednesday to intervene in a lawsuit filed by fossil fuel groups in March that asks the Environmental Protection Agency to delay or reconsider a rule that places more regulations on chemical plants.

Looking ahead, the EPA formally opened a docket to public comment to identify regulations to be repealed, replaced, or modified.

"We want to prevent regulation created for the sake of regulation by the previous administration", Pruitt said. "Some of our nation's largest job producers have objected to this rule, saying the requirements set by the Obama administration are not economically or technologically feasible within the prescribed time frame".

He responded to those who think the EPA is now "compromising outcomes" with respect to the environment as it relaxes regulations on coal-fired power plants.

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Pruitt didn't address whether the administration intends to withdraw from the worldwide climate agreement, which sets ambitious goals to lower carbon-base pollution.

"Trump's attempt to halt these clean water protections for mercury, lead and arsenic from coal power plants is unsafe and irresponsible", the Sierra Club's Mary Anne Hitt said in a statement. "This rollback gives a blank check to the power companies, and it directly threatens drinking water supplies across the country". They also argued that the Obama administration's rule was based on years of peer-reviewed studies, input from health experts and a mountain of public comments. Could the Trump administration be opening another door that, in a few weeks, they may wish they had left shut?

A group of coal miners listen to Pruitt on Thursday. But in the past month, industry representatives have urged the new administration to revisit the rule.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt holds up a hardhat he was given during a visit to Consol Energy's Harvey Mine in Sycamore, Pa., Thursday, April 13, 2017.

Pruitt appears to agree.

Aside from arguing EPA improperly withheld data on how they came up with the rule, plaintiffs argued the agency didn't perform proper testing to see if requiring coal plants to install new equipment would meet federal pollution guidelines. The next day, the EPA's scientific integrity office said it was reviewing whether Pruitt violated agency policies when he publicly questioned the role of carbon pollution in climate change.