The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Trump's EPA Rolls Back Limits on Toxic Heavy Metal Pollution From Power Plants


The Environmental Protection Agency today finalized its decision to delay portions of an Obama-era rule limiting toxic metals in wastewater discharged from steam-powered electricity plants. Enforcement of the rule would have reduced the amount of toxic heavy metals and other pollutants entering waterways by 1.4 billion pounds a year.

"It's deeply disturbing to see the Trump administration giving power plants permission to keep dumping toxic metals like arsenic into our rivers and drinking water supplies," said Howard Crystal, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. "This mind-bogglingly dangerous decision threatens our children's well-being and the survival of endangered wildlife."

Today's decision postpones compliance deadlines for the Steam Electric Effluent Limitation Guidelines (ELG) rule, originally set to begin in November 2018. The ELG rule would require that steam-powered electricity plants take economically achievable measures to reduce wastewater streams of heavy metals, including mercury, arsenic and lead.

The heavy metals commonly detected in power plant wastewater can cause severe health problems, including cancer and lowered IQ among children, as well as deformities and reproductive harm in fish and wildlife.

In a recent comment letter, the Center's attorneys argued that the EPA violated the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act by delaying the rule without first consulting with appropriate federal wildlife agencies and completing an environmental impact statement.

The EPA's original environmental assessment for the ELG rule concluded that many power plants are discharging wastewater that is deadly to fish, decreases ecosystem biodiversity and compromises drinking water quality.

The EPA proposed the ELG rule in 2013, noting that steam electric power plants contribute the majority of all toxic pollution discharged into surface waters by all industries, a level which will only increase. The rule was finalized in 2015. However, in April, utilities and electric industry groups petitioned the EPA to reconsider the ruling.

"The EPA is tossing out safeguards that would finally address our nation's leading source of toxic water pollution while the drinking water of millions of Americans hangs in the balance," Crystal said. "We will fight to reverse this decision and make sure the Trump administration prioritizes protecting our health and wildlife over padding the pockets of polluters."

At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature — to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters and climate that species need to survive.

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