EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced his “back-to-basics” agenda yesterday (April 13) in a visit to the Harvey Mine in Sycamore, Pennsylvania. Part of that agenda involves putting a halt to a coal industry regulation former President Barack Obama intended to begin in 2018.
Obama finalized the Electric Power Generating Rule (ELG Rule) within the Clean Water Act in 2015, which would have helped prevent coal industries from polluting public waterways with toxic metals like lead, arsenic and mercury. This rule set the first federal limits on how much toxic metal power plants could discharge into the water. The rule was estimated to affect only 12 percent of steam electric power plants.
The ELG Rule was supposed to reduce the amount of toxic metals and other pollutants plants are allowed to dispose by 1.4 million pounds, the EPA said then. But yesterday, the EPA stated, in a press release, that the rule was a costly implementation for the coal industry at $480 million a year. The benefits, however, were supposed to add up to $451 to $566 million, though the agency didn’t clarify from where exactly this money would come.
“This action is another example of EPA implementing President Trump’s vision of being good stewards of our natural resources, while not developing regulations that hurt our economy and kill jobs,” said Pruitt, in that release.
Industry officials, like the Utility Water Act Group and the U.S. Small Business Association, have filed two petitions over the past month asking the agency to reconsider the rule.
Environmentalists, however, have responded to Pruitt’s latest decision with disappointment. Sierra Club’s Director of the Beyond Coal campaign Mary Anne Hitt said, in a statement:
Trump claimed he wanted EPA to go “back to basics” and focus on clean air and water in his Administration, but one of the first actions by his EPA Administrator is an attempt to gut an important water pollution safeguard. This is appalling.
As a mother, I’m frankly horrified that the EPA would put the safety of drinking water at risk for millions of Americans, but that’s exactly what they’ve done. Coming from West Virginia, where we’ve had enormous challenges with maintaining clean water supplies due to the coal industry’s political influence, I’m outraged that these common sense protections are under attack from the EPA itself. Having clean, accessible water is a basic right for all families, and it’s EPA’s job to ensure our communities have the clean water we need to stay healthy and thrive. 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, but polluters.