Collins, Tillis say ‘no changes needed’ on EPA’s Mercury Rule

U.S. Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Thom Tillis (R-NC) earlier this week urged the Trump administration to retract a proposed rule by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that they say could undo regulations around harmful mercury emissions.

The Mercury and Air Toxics Standards Rule, most commonly known as the Mercury Rule, was finalized in February 2012 to reduce emissions of mercury and toxic air pollutants from coal-fired and oil-fired power plants. The EPA on Dec. 27, 2018, released a proposal that stated it’s no longer “appropriate and necessary” to regulate mercury and air toxic emissions from these plants.

Sens. Tillis and Collins aren’t thrilled with the EPA’s proposal.

“Mercury is a deadly toxin that harms the development of fetuses and children,” they wrote in a March 18 letter signed by a bipartisan group of four other senators. “It makes no sense to take any action that could lead to the weakening of mercury emission standards.”

The senators also pointed out that the National Institutes of Health reported mercury to be a highly toxic element with no known safe levels of exposure that’s also “a serious health hazard for children.”  

In their letter, Sens. Collins and Tillis, along with their colleagues, urged EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler to withdraw the agency’s proposed Mercury Rule changes.

“We support the Mercury Rule because cleaner air means better health, a better economy, and better jobs for residents of our states,” the senators wrote. “As a result of the Mercury Rule, power plants are emitting nearly 90 percent less mercury than a decade ago and we are already seeing the public health benefits.”

However, all of those benefits could be erased, the lawmakers wrote, if the rule is undone, which “could result in installed mercury and air toxic control technology to be turned off.”

The senators also told Wheeler that the utility industry has repeatedly supported the Mercury Rule and has said it requires no changes.

“Providing utilities with regulatory certainty by keeping the Mercury Rule in place and effective will help to maintain steady electricity prices for American families across the country,” according to their letter.