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Trump Unleashes Mercury Pollution

The Trump Administration wants to let dirty coal power get dirtier by allowing higher emissions of mercury and other toxic pollution.

During a month marked by the Trump Administration’s efforts to use the pandemic as cover for its anti-environment initiatives, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it is finalizing a “technical” change to the way it measures environmental rules’ costs and benefits. The result will be oil and coal power plants releasing more mercury, a potent agent for prenatal and childhood nerve and brain damage. 

The change in cost-benefit analysis would certainly also be used by the fossil fuel industry to target other rules it considers too costly to its profits. “That is the big unstated goal,” said David Konisky, a professor of public and environmental affairs at Indiana University. “This is less about [just] mercury than about potentially constraining or handcuffing future efforts by the EPA to regulate air pollution.”

The public health threat from the increased mercury pollution alone is outrageous enough. League of Conservation Voters (LCV) Legislative Director Matthew Davis is a former health scientist at the EPA, where he reviewed how mercury impacts babies’ brain development. He said, “This is a horrific signal from the Trump administration that our children, especially children of color, are not worth protecting. This move could once again expose communities, particularly communities of color and those just scraping by, to dangerous levels of mercury pollution — causing permanent damage to the brains of babies and developing fetuses, leading to developmental delays, learning disabilities, and birth defects. It is beyond the pale that undermining the lifesaving Mercury and Air Toxics Standards and future scientific analyses is just the latest on a long list of attacks on our air and our health the Trump administration has put forward during the coronavirus crisis.”

During the last few weeks, the Trump Administration has rushed ahead with plans to weaken controls on air pollution from cars, and more recently announced it would reject proposals to strengthen controls on air pollution from fine particulates (soot).

It’s as if the current president and his officials don’t know — or don’t care — that we are in the midst of a public health crisis which attacks human lives through their respiratory systems. These are the very systems which are stressed and damaged by the air pollution which the Trump Administration is seeking to increase — with deadly results.

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