The US Environment Agency maintains legal limits for mercury from power plants

The US Environment Agency maintains legal limits for mercury from power plants

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Friday reaffirmed a 2012 legislative and scientific finding that hazardous air pollutants and mercury from power plants need to be controlled, a necessary step before strengthening those air regulations.

The final rule is one of several regulations the agency is expected to finalize or propose in the coming months as it develops regulations to clean up the power sector and force power plant operators to tighten pollution controls or close old, polluting plants.

The EPA’s move to deem the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) “appropriate and necessary” undoes a Trump administration rule that overturned legislative and scientific findings. It leaves the 2012 MATS rule intact but paves the way for EPA to update and strengthen power plant regulations this year.

The agency said it will determine whether more stringent protections are “feasible and warranted” in the next steps.

“This finding ensures the continuation of these critical, life-saving protections while advancing President Biden’s commitment to making science-based decisions and protecting the health and well-being of all people and all communities,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in a statement.

Coal- and oil-burning power plants are among the largest sources of hazardous air pollution, including mercury, lead, arsenic, and acid gases, as well as major sources of benzene, formaldehyde, dioxins, and other biohazardous air pollutants.

Environmental groups welcomed the confirmation of the legal basis for the MATS regulations but called on the EPA to “finish the job” by strengthening the 2012 rule.

“The EPA must prioritize our children and communities who face the greatest risk from these pollutants by strengthening the 2012 standards to ensure that coal plants continue to use available cost-effective technologies to reduce toxic pollution,” said Holly Bender, of the Energy Campaign. Senior Director for the Sierra Club.

The EPA is due to unveil other rules this spring on ozone, smog and greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. The EPA is in the process of hiring more staff to implement programs created by the Inflation Reduction Act and the Infrastructure Bill.

(Reporting by Valerie Volcovici; Editing by Josie Cao)

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