The Biden administration’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced on Thursday that it is reinstating mercury limits that were weakened under the Trump administration, in a move aimed at protecting public health and the environment.
The limits were originally put in place by the Obama administration in 2011 under the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, which required coal-fired power plants to reduce their emissions of mercury, a potent neurotoxin that can cause serious health problems, including developmental delays and cognitive impairment, especially in children.
However, in 2019, the Trump administration rolled back the mercury limits, arguing that the costs of compliance outweighed the benefits. The move was widely criticized by public health and environmental groups, who argued that it would lead to more pollution and harm to human health.
Now, under the Biden administration, the EPA has taken steps to reverse the Trump-era rollback and restore the original mercury limits. The agency cited the significant public health benefits of reducing mercury emissions, estimating that the move will prevent up to 11,000 premature deaths, 4,700 heart attacks, and 130,000 asthma attacks each year.
In a statement, EPA Administrator Michael Regan said that “protecting public health and the environment is at the core of EPA’s mission,” and that the agency is committed to “reversing the previous administration’s attempts to weaken environmental protections.”
The move was welcomed by environmental and public health groups, who applauded the Biden administration’s commitment to science-based decision-making and environmental protection.
“Today’s announcement is a clear signal that the Biden administration is prioritizing public health and environmental protection over industry interests,” said Gina McCarthy, president and CEO of the Natural Resources Defense Council and former EPA administrator under the Obama administration.
However, the move is likely to face opposition from the coal industry and other fossil fuel interests, who argue that the mercury limits are too costly and burdensome for their businesses.
The reinstatement of the mercury limits is just one of several actions that the Biden administration has taken to roll back Trump-era environmental rollbacks and restore environmental protections. The administration has also moved to rejoin the Paris climate agreement, restore clean water protections, and strengthen fuel efficiency standards, among other measures.