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Trump lashes out at critics who claim he abuses his office; a strike at JFK airport; gun control bills in Wisconsin; a possible link between air pollution and violent crime; and very close foreign elections.

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After a settlement instead of what would have been the first trial in the landmark court case on the opioid crisis, we look at what 2020 candidates want to do about drug pricing.

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EPA to Undermine But Not Overturn Mercury-Emission Rule

Mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants dropped nearly 82 percent after the EPA put stricter emission limits in place in 2012. (Tim Evanson/Wikimedia Commons)
Mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants dropped nearly 82 percent after the EPA put stricter emission limits in place in 2012. (Tim Evanson/Wikimedia Commons)
December 28, 2018

HELENA, Mont. – The Trump administration is set to weaken standards limiting emissions of mercury and other toxic pollutants from coal-fired power plants.

Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler has indicated that his agency will maintain the Obama-era Mercury and Air Toxics Standards. However, it's set to make changes to the legal justification for the rule and recalculate its health benefits, opening it up to lawsuits.

Adam Pimley, an organizer with Clean Air Montana, thinks the changes will undermine the rule in the long run. He also notes that much of the industry already has complied with these standards.

"The generation industry, the folks who run the power plants, the coal-fired power plants that had to put these controls in place” says Pimley, “have invested $18 billion to do so. They don't want to see those investments essentially go up in smoke."

Coal-fired power plants are the largest source of mercury in the U.S.. The Center for American Progress found that after the 2012 rule was put in place, emissions dropped 82 percent over the next five years.

Mercury is a powerful neurotoxin that can lower IQ in children, damage the nervous system and increase the risk of heart attacks. Opponents of the rule have said it's onerous and has damaged the coal industry.

Pimley notes Montana put higher emissions standards in place before the EPA did. But he doesn't believe that prevented the state from seeing the impacts of pollution from other states.

"Air pollution doesn't know state boundaries,” says Pimley. “So just because Montana had a mercury standard before the EPA doesn't mean mercury from other states wasn't just blowing across the border and landing in our communities and in our rivers, and then getting concentrated in the fish that we like to go out and fish for and eat."

Even though the federal government shutdown continues, the EPA is expected to announce its changes to the mercury rule as early as next week.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - MT