PNS Daily Newscast - September 13, 2019 

Prosecutors get approval to bring charges against former acting FBI director Andrew McCabe; and the Trump administration rolls back clean water protections.

2020Talks - September 16, 2019. (3 min.)  

2020 presidential hopefuls tweet about more sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, and Democrats who didn't make it onto last week's debate stage continue their grassroots approaches.

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Groups Testify Against EPA Rollback of Mercury Regulations

Mercury emissions from U.S. coal plants decreased 85 percent between 2006 and 2016, and mercury levels in water and fish also have decreased. (JuergenPM/Pixabay)
Mercury emissions from U.S. coal plants decreased 85 percent between 2006 and 2016, and mercury levels in water and fish also have decreased. (JuergenPM/Pixabay)
March 18, 2019

RICHMOND, Va. — Environmental groups plan to speak out against the Trump administration's rollback of regulations that have cut mercury emissions at coal-fired power plants by 85 percent in the last decade.

The Environmental Protection Agency's daylong public hearing tackles proposed changes to an Obama administration rule, known as the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards. Utility companies say the rule has cost them $18 billion so far to reduce emissions from coal-plant smokestacks.

Despite those cleanup efforts, Shenandoah Riverkeeper Mark Frondorf said more work is necessary at chemical plants like the former DuPont facility - now known as Invista - in Waynesboro, which stopped its mercury contamination in the 1950s.

"Sixty-nine years later, we still have fish consumption advisories in the Shenandoah River, we have fish consumption advisories in the South River, and it's impacted the environment,” Frondorf said.

The Trump administration argues it is "providing regulatory certainty" by accurately estimating the costs of the rule. Frondorf will testify against the rule changes during today's public hearing at EPA headquarters in Washington. The hearing will run from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Mercury causes brain damage, learning disabilities and other birth defects in children, among other problems. Frondorf said the mercury levels are so high in the South River, government officials have issued warnings saying no fish, with the exception of trout, should be consumed from the river.

"If you have an 8-year-old boy that you want to take fishing, are you really going to take them to the South River and let him eat trout, or let her eat trout, just because they say they're the only fish safe to eat?” Frondorf questioned. “So, it’s also impacted not just the environment, but also the economy of that area down there."

Frondorf added changing the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards now would also affect all the plants that have already invested in upgrades over the years to reduce their pollution output.

Trimmel Gomes, Public News Service - VA