Trump administration halts Obama-era rule aimed at curbing toxic wastewater from coal plants

The Trump administration has hit the pause button on an Obama-era regulation aimed at limiting the dumping of toxic metals such as arsenic and mercury by the nation’s power plants into public waterways.  

Beginning in 2018, power plants would have had to begin showing that they were using the most up-to-date technology to remove heavy metals — including lead, arsenic, mercury and other pollutants — from their wastewater. Pruitt wrote that the EPA plans to postpone compliance deadlines for the regulation, which is also being challenged in a federal court. On Thursday, the EPA said the rule would cost the industry hundreds of millions of dollars a year to comply with.

The move drew immediate condemnation from environmental groups, which called it a gift to the energy industry. They insisted that the Trump administration focused only on potential costs of the rule while ignoring its benefits, and that delays in compliance will endanger wildlife and pose health threats to families that live near coal plants, as exposure to heavy metals can cause problems with cognitive development in children, among other problems.

“Trump’s attempt to halt these clean water protections for mercury, lead and arsenic from coal power plants is dangerous and irresponsible,” the Sierra Club’s Mary Anne Hitt said in a statement.

That group and others noted that power plants represent the largest industrial source of toxic wastewater pollution in the country and that more than a third of coal plants discharge wastewater within five miles of a downstream community’s drinking water intake. They also argued that the Obama administration’s rule was based on years of peer-reviewed studies, input from health experts and a mountain of public comments.

“Despite all this, Trump’s EPA administrator is trying to throw it all away to placate polluters,” Hitt said. “Trump’s decision to attack our right to clean water on behalf of coal executives is just another indication of who this administration works for — and it isn’t American families.”

(Excerpted from Washington Post 4/13/17)