Friday, February 19, 2016

The Mercury Rule Will Save Even More Money Than The EPA Thought

by Samantha Page Feb 17, 2016

The Environmental Protection Agency’s so-called Mercury Rule, which curbs mercury released from power plants, offers tens of billions of dollars in health benefits, according to a new review of research from the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Science.

Findings such as these could be critical to the EPA’s successful defense of the rule and the ultimate goal of reducing Americans’ exposure to mercury. (If you have ever been told not to eat fish out of certain streams, mercury poisoning is likely the reason.)

Last year, the Supreme Court determined that the agency illegally failed to consider how costly it would be to regulate mercury from coal and oil-fired plants, which contribute half of the United States’ mercury emissions. The pro-industry ruling, a 5-4 decision penned by the late Justice Antonin Scalia, sent the regulation back down to the D.C Circuit Court for consideration.

The EPA has said it will submit a cost analysis by April 16, at which point the court could invalidate the rule or find that repealing it would cause more harm than good. The rule has been in effect while the consideration goes forward.

The review of recent scientific literature, published in Environmental Science and Technology, found that the benefits of the rule are “easily in the tens of billions” of dollars. The EPA didn’t even consider cardiovascular health benefits, the scientists said, which have more recently been tied to mercury exposure. Furthermore, the EPA underestimated how effectively reducing mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants would reduce mercury exposure in the general public.

Methylmercury, the compound that comes from power plants, is a powerful neurotoxin that can affect coordination, impair speech and hearing, cause muscle weakness, and degrade vision. Exposure to methylmercury in utero and for infants and small children can have significant long term health impacts, including cognitive and fine motor impairments.


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