Trump-appointed EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler is attempting to reverse a rule that reduced power plant mercury emissions by 80 percent in the six years leading to 2017, according to environmental issues nonprofit Earth Justice.
The Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS), passed in 2011, is now being challenged by Wheeler, a former lobbyist for fossil fuel producer Murray Energy, the main opponent of the legislation. Wheeler has been at the helm of the EPA since the beginning of 2019 when he replaced Scott Pruitt.
The administrator will not withdraw the rule directly, a move that is likely to draw opposition from the judicial branch, writes Earth Justice. Rather, Wheeler will seek to argue that the regulation was never “appropriate” because its drawbacks outweigh its benefits, a calculation he expects Murray to use in court.
The regulation prompted an 81.7 percent reduction on mercury emissions from 2011 to 2017. Before it was enforced, coal plants accounted for close to half of mercury arsenic, hydrochloric acid, hydrogen fluoride, and selenium emissions in the country. They were also responsible for a substantial portion of the country’s lead, and chromium contamination.