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U.S. EPA proposes big change that could let coal plants emit more mercury

Cobb power plant in Muskegon, which shut down in April 2016
Tracy Samilton
Michigan Radio

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is proposing a big change to a rule that requires coal burning power plants to slash mercury, arsenic and other emissions. Mercury and arsenic are neurotoxins.

The EPA under the Obama administration required coal burning power plants to control emissions of mercury and arsenic for the first time. 

Now, under Administrator Andrew Wheeler, a former coal industry lobbyist, the EPA says the cost to utilities of installing the scrubbing equipment far outweighs the economic benefits, which includes fewer people being hospitalized or dying. 

The next step could be rescinding the rule entirely.  

The National Resources Defense Counsel says utilities didn't ask the EPA to change the rule, so it appears it's being done to help Wheeler's former coal industry bosses.  

Most utilities have already installed the equipment on their coal units, including DTE Energy, and Consumers Energy (one of Michigan Radio's corporate sponsors.)

In a statement, Consumers Energy spokesman Brian Wheeler said:

Consumers Energy supports policies that put Michigan in charge of its energy future, reducing the need for our state to look to decisions made in Washington, D.C., to drive the decisions we make. We are reviewing today's proposed EPA regulations. We are not planning any immediate changes to our existing Clean Energy Plan, which includes closing our coal-fired power plants by 2040.


Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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