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PNS Daily Newscast - September 28, 2020 


The New York Times reports President Trump's tax returns show chronic losses; and will climate change make it as a topic in the first presidential debate?


2020Talks - September 28, 2020 


The New York Times obtains President Trump's tax returns, showing chronic loss and debts coming due. And Judge Amy Coney Barrett is Trump's nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Will EPA's Mercury Rule Change Spur Attacks on Other Clean Air Protections?

The federal Mercury and Air Toxics Standards have reduced mercury emissions from power plants by about 86% since 2010. (Adobe Stock)
The federal Mercury and Air Toxics Standards have reduced mercury emissions from power plants by about 86% since 2010. (Adobe Stock)
April 17, 2020

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - Even as the country battles a respiratory pandemic, the Environmental Protection Agency has moved to weaken an air pollution standard.

Yesterday, the EPA finalized changes to the 2012 Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, the first-ever national limits on emissions of mercury and other air pollutants from coal-fired power plants.

Carol Browner is the board chair at the League of Conservation Voters and served as EPA Administrator in the Clinton administration. She explains the agency isn't outright scrapping the mercury standard, but rather adjusting the way its costs and benefits are calculated.

"This is very sinister what they're up to here," says Browner. "Because they're really, really trying to radically change how the agency undertakes its cost/benefit analysis, and that can have very, very negative consequences on a lot of rulemaking."

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler describes it as the agency "correcting the flawed cost finding" in the original rule, and he argues that "no more mercury will be emitted into the air than before."

In Illinois, the standards were expected to prevent roughly 570 premature deaths and create $4.7 billion in health benefits in 2016. Nationally, the rule has cut mercury emissions by about 86% since 2010.

A study released last week asserts that the EPA's analysis of the mercury standard is faulty.

Report co-author and Professor of the Practice of Public Policy Joe Aldy from the Harvard Kennedy School says it doesn't account for advances in electricity generation that have reduced costs, or the direct health benefits of reducing mercury emissions, such as fewer heart attacks.

"On the benefits and the costs, EPA is ignoring what we have learned since 2011," says Aldy. "I would say that the science and economics behind this decision is flawed - but in reality, there's no science behind this decision. It's simply just a flawed decision."

The EPA's 2011 analysis estimated the Mercury and Air Toxics Standard would cost an estimated $10 billion for power plants to clean up their pollution. But Aldy says the benefits are far greater - ranging from $33 billion to $90 billion saved annually.

Mary Schuermann Kuhlman, Public News Service - IL