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Kids jump on a trampoline at their grandparents' home as steam rises from the Miller coal power plant in Adamsville, Alabama on April 11, 2021. (Photo: by Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images)

Kids jump on a trampoline at their grandparents' home as steam rises from the Miller coal power plant in Adamsville, Alabama on April 11, 2021.  (Photo: by Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images)

Biden Praised for Reversing Trump Effort to Unleash More Toxic Air Pollution

The proposal "marks another point of progress in the EPA's return to its mission of putting people, not polluters, first."

Andrea Germanos

The Biden administration on Monday won strong praise from public health defenders following the Environmental Protection Agency's move to restore the legal basis for regulating mercury and other toxic air pollutants from coal- and oil-fired power plants.

"Administrator Regan has taken a critical step forward in restoring vital public health protections."

The agency "is taking a critical first step in protecting communities—in particular, communities of color—from dangerous, toxic pollution from coal plants," said Patrick Drupp, deputy legislative director for climate and clean air at Sierra Club.

At issue is the Obama-era Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) for power plants. In 2020, with former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler at the helm of the EPA, the Trump administration weakened the rule by axing the legal finding that it is "appropriate and necessary" to regulate power plants' hazardous air emissions.

That decision, like other deregulatory actions under Trump, sparked ire from environmental groups, with accusations that it was "beyond stupid" and "a broadside attack on our ability to protect communities from air pollution." A neurotoxin, mercury is linked to harm to children's brain development.

From 2011 to 2018, MATS had been attributed for an 81% decline in nationwide mercury air pollution from power plants.

Current EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan on Monday announced the proposal to reverse the Trump move by saying that agency does, in fact, have authority to regulate those toxins.

In a statement, the agency said that "the 2020 action was based on a fundamentally flawed interpretation of the Clean Air Act that improperly ignored or undervalued vital health benefits from reducing hazardous air pollution from power plants. Based on a thorough review of these benefits, the reasonable costs of controls, and other relevant factors, EPA is proposing to reaffirm that it is appropriate and necessary to regulate emissions of hazardous air pollutants from coal- and oil-fired power plants." The agency also said it's reviewing whether more stringent regulations for hazardous air pollution are necessary.

According to Julie McNamara, deputy policy director for the Climate and Energy Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists: "Administrator Regan has taken a critical step forward in restoring vital public health protections. There is no question—none—that it is 'appropriate and necessary' to limit people's exposure to mercury and other hazardous air pollutants from coal- and oil-fired power plants."

The new decision, said Environmental Working Group president Ken Cook, "returns sanity and science to EPA's efforts protecting children and other vulnerable populations from extremely dangerous pollution like mercury."

“Although reversing the insidious anti-health policies of the former Trump administration should be celebrated," said Cook, "it's a stark reminder of what happens when critical environmental safeguards are eviscerated and scientific consensus is rejected just to placate the coal industry."

McNamara similarly said that Regan's new proposal "never should have had to happen."

"The Trump administration's revocation of the 'appropriate and necessary' finding was based on an egregious manipulation of science to favor polluters," she said. In contrast, the Biden administration's plan, "with its clear commitment to evaluating the best available science, marks another point of progress in the EPA's return to its mission of putting people, not polluters, first."


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Grave Warnings as Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Case That Threatens 'Future of Voting Rights'

"Buckle up," implores one prominent legal scholar. "An extreme decision here could fundamentally alter the balance of power in setting election rules in the states and provide a path for great threats to elections."

Brett Wilkins ·


Biden Urged to Take Emergency Action After 'Disastrous' Climate Ruling by Supreme Court

"The catastrophic impact of this decision cannot be understated," said Rep. Pramila Jayapal, but "we cannot accept defeat."

Kenny Stancil ·


'Now We're Talking!' Says AOC as Biden Backs Filibuster Carveout for Abortion Rights

"Time for people to see a real, forceful push for it," said the New York Democrat. "Use the bully pulpit. We need more."

Jake Johnson ·


Supreme Court Says Biden Can End 'Shameful' Remain in Mexico Asylum Policy

"Now is the turn for Congress to get rid of Title 42, and provide a solution to the weakened asylum system in place, to provide a humane and fair alternative to vulnerable children, families, and individuals fleeing unsafe conditions and persecution."

Brett Wilkins ·


Democrats Lose Senate Majority as 82-Year-Old Leahy Heads for Hip Surgery

"It could be over for the Senate Dems now," said one policy expert in response. "This could mean they effectively lost their majority."

Jon Queally ·

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