Trump Administration Ready to Weaken Mercury Rules, Dealing Another Blow to Health Protections

In yet another reversal of an Obama-era regulation put in place to protect human lives, the Environmental Protection Agency (E.P.A.) (really, isn’t it time to replace “Protection” with “Destruction”?) has submitted to Trump a proposal that would weaken curbs on the emissions of mercury by power plants.

This is a major victory for the coal industry and an equally major statement that the Trump administration is willing to destroy lives in order to save coal. Mercury is a deadly pollutant and is known to damage the nervous systems of children and fetuses. 

According to The Washington Post, the new proposed rule targets the Obama-era 2011 Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) which put strict limits on mercury emissions from power plants.

Congress originally authorized the E.P.A. in the 1990s to regulate deadly emissions such as mercury, arsenic and selenium that are the byproduct of burning coal. But it took until 2011 before a regulation was developed.

According to The Washington Post:

“The EPA estimated at the time that the soot and nitrogen oxide reductions that would accompany cuts to mercury pollution would save between $37 billion to $90 billion in annual health costs and lost workdays by preventing as many as 11,000 premature deaths and 4,700 heart attacks.”

The regulation was developed because coal-fired power plants are the single largest emitter of mercury. 

Apparently, the Trump administration couldn’t care less about the health of people living in the U.S.

The revision of MATS would not eliminate the rule entirely, but it would weaken its impact and the suspicion is that it might set the stage for a complete repeal of the law. The reasoning is that it is just too expensive for coal plants to implement those curbs on deadly toxins.

There have been challenges to MATS ever since it was put into law. In 2015, the Supreme Court issued a ruling that required the E.P.A. to examine the costs and benefits of the law.

Brett Kavanaugh, Trump’s current Supreme Court nominee, had made the same request the year before. In a 2014 dissent from a D.C. circuit ruling, he argued that is was ‘unreasonable” for the E.P.A. not to take into account the economic effect of the rule on coal producers before implementing it.

This is one more demonstration that instead of draining the swamp, Trump is extending and deepening it. Kicking Scott Pruitt out of the E.P.A. only opened the door for Andrew Wheeler to step in as acting administrator. Wheeler is a former coal lobbyist and his former boss, Robert E. Murray, is the CEO of Murray Energy Corporation which is – guess what? – one of the nation’s largest coal companies.

Murray was also a major donor to Trump’s inauguration fund and soon after January 20, 2017, he sent the new president a wish list that included the elimination of the mercury rule. 

The proposed rollback of this rule is just the latest in Trump’s determined effort to eliminate Obama-era regulations on polluting industries, and especially coal. 

Last August, the E.P.A. managed to endanger our planet and our health with two proposals loosening air pollution restrictions: first it was to revoke Obama-era rules on limiting car emissions. Then Trump traveled to West Virginia to announce his decision to allow states to set their own emissions standards for coal-fired power plants, a move designed to reverse Obama’s Clean Power Plan and a decision that would undoubtedly lead to higher carbon emissions.

Yet the reality is that coal is on the decline in the U.S., being replaced by renewable energy.

So this madness must stop. We cannot allow the Trump administration to simply ignore the tragic consequences of mercury pollution, in order to promote the production of coal, which is on the way out.

If you agree, please sign my petition demanding that the Trump administration not weaken the current regulations on mercury emissions.


Photo Credit: thinkstock


Justin M
Justin M6 months ago


Paul B
Paul B6 months ago

Belinda... very true, but how many people you think "properly" dispose of them, or go through proper procedures when one breaks in their home? Very few. I am happy to see cfl's being replaced by LED lights.

Belinda Lang
Belinda L6 months ago

Paul B., the mercury in CFL bulbs are only a problem if a bulb breaks. I never bought any CFL bulbs. I stockpiled incandescent light bulbs. Just in the past couple of years I have begun to buy LED bulbs. When mercury is emitted into the air we are all subject to breathing it.

Carol C
Carol C6 months ago

This is a poisonous administration. Petition signed.

Anne Moran
Anne M6 months ago

And the beat goes on...

Susanne R
Susanne R6 months ago

trump is methodically rescinding every regulation designed to protect citizens from being poisoned through our air, water, or any other means of exposure to industrial emissions and chemical waste. Unfortunately, the fact that congress has a Republican majority gives trump free rein to do whatever his corporate benefactors ask of him. I wish they'd place a toxic dump near his home and his properties.

Ruth G
Ruth G6 months ago

He really is one stupid ignorant fool!

Chrissie R
Chrissie R6 months ago

Thanks for posting your opinion.

Alea C
Alea C6 months ago

What air does Trump and the GOP think they'll be breathing when they destroy the air everyone else is breathing? There's dumb, and there's the republican party.

Paul B
Paul B6 months ago

The same mercury that the left forced us to use in CFL light bulbs that are now being dumped in landfills across the US. Why was it "so important" then that we accept the exposure but now its horrible.