Apparently all American children have been bad this year, since the Trump administration has given them a huge lump of coal for Christmas.
On Friday, the Trump administration proposed a new rule that would boost coal-plant emissions of mercury, arsenic, and toxic air pollution.
The proposal would gut the EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards — an Obama-era rule — by barring the EPA from including any of the so-called “co-benefits” from the mercury standards that don’t directly come from cutting mercury.
Reducing mercury — a dangerous neurotoxin — simultaneously reduces many other toxic coal pollutants, thereby preventing up to 11,000 premature deaths and 130,000 asthma attacks yearly, while delivering total annual health benefits of up to $90 billion.
This new strategy would mean the EPA would have to ignore all of those co-benefits in defending the mercury standards, which would open them to serious court challenges from the coal industry.
It would also mean future EPA rules would have to ignore co-benefits. For instance, climate rules might not be able to count the myriad health benefits that come from burning less coal.
The proposed rule was signed Thursday by acting EPA administrator, Andrew Wheeler, a former top lobbyist for coal giant Murray Energy, whose CEO, Robert Murray is a huge contributor to Trump. The New York Times reported Friday that Mr. Murray, “personally requested the rollback of the mercury rule soon after Mr. Trump took office.”
The EPA has previously acknowledged the health risks of mercury. The EPA’s own “2017 EPA-FDA Advice about Eating Fish and Shellfish” warns that “methylmercury can negatively affect the central nervous system, particularly the developing brain of a fetus.” The agencies urge pregnant and nursing women — as well as young children — to eat less fish that is high in mercury.
Wheeler held an event on Children’s Health Day in October at the EPA courtyard where he asserted, “Children’s health is a top priority at EPA, and we have made tremendous progress improving air and water quality and helping kids and families lead healthier lives.”
But in reality, all of that progress helping kids was made in previous administrations through EPA rules that Trump and Wheeler are fighting hard to roll back in what has been called “a war on children.”