EPA’s Mercury Regulation Rollback Could Increase Energy Costs

(Photo Credit: Thomas B., Pixabay)

by | Apr 17, 2020

EPA’s Mercury Regulation Rollback Could Increase Energy Costs

(Photo Credit: Thomas B., Pixabay)

The Trump administration moved to loosen regulations governing mercury and other air pollutants from oil and coal-powered plants. An EPA rule introduced this week could potentially increase costs for utilities, affecting electricity rates.

On Thursday the EPA released a final action revising how costs are calculated for the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS), also known as the Mercury Rule. These standards, finalized in 2011 under the Obama administration, required power plants to limit emissions of toxic air pollutants such as mercury and arsenic.

The new EPA rule changes how the federal government calculates the cost of regulating mercury and toxic metals. EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler argued against counting co-benefits such as public health and productivity when weighing the economic effects of the regulation, the Washington Post reported.

Environmental advocates and utility executives have criticized the rule change since the Trump administration first proposed it. Utilities have already spent $3 billion annually between 2012 and 2018 to be in compliance, according to the Post. Co-benefits were previously calculated to be worth between $37 billion and $90 billion.

Scott A. Weaver, the director of air quality services for the utility American Electric Power, expressed concern about the rollbacks in a written comment on a draft of the new rule, according to the New York Times.

“‘Rescinding the standards at this point will create new problems,’ Weaver wrote, noting that companies that have sought to recoup the cost of installing mercury control equipment through bills to customers may no longer legally be able to do so,” the Times reported. “That means the new rule could actually cost companies more money.” And that may be passed along to ratepayers.

Edison Electric Institute spokesman Brian Reil told the Post that the electric power industry has invested more than $18 billion in pollution controls and reduced mercury emissions by nearly 90% since 2010. Utilities remain concerned about the possibility of new risks, including legal challenges, from the rule change the outlet added.

Stay Informed

Get E+E Leader Articles delivered via Newsletter right to your inbox!

Share This