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Trump EPA Gives America Belated Christmas Present: More Poison!

Environment

What did you get for Christmas this year? Was it itching? Skin discoloration? Skin peeling? The feeling that there were bugs crawling all over you? Impaired motor skills for your young child?

If not, you were probably disappointed. But have no fear, Santa Trump is here -- and he is bringing America a boatload of all the mercury poisoning that Obama thought we were too chicken to handle.


On Friday, Environmental Protection Agency (it's ironic now, ok? Trump is a hipster) announced that they would be rolling back several Obama-era rules preventing coal plants from releasing a ton of mercury into the air. Why? Because it is like, really expensive to not give people mercury poisoning and if Americans were patriotic enough to eat only margarine during WWII, then surely they will be willing to put up with a little discomfort to ensure that people who own coal factories get to be even more rich than they were previously.

The New York Times reports:

In the proposal, the Environmental Protection Agency issued a finding declaring that federal rules imposed on mercury by the Obama administration are too costly to justify.
It drastically changed the formula the government uses in its required cost-benefit analysis of the regulation by taking into account only certain effects that can be measured in dollars, while ignoring or playing down other health benefits.

The result could set a precedent reaching far beyond mercury rules. "It will make it much more difficult for the government to justify environmental regulations in many cases," said Robert N. Stavins, a professor of environmental economics at Harvard University.

The Obama administration, naturally, tried to frame reducing emissions of mercury as some kind of good thing, barely even acknowledging the millions of Americans who vote Republican in hopes of getting to watch their loved ones die from toxins in the air or water or tuna fish sandwiches.

The original rule required power plants to reduce emissions of mercury and other toxic pollutants by more than 90 percent over five years. Mercury is a neurotoxin that can damage the brain and nervous system in young children, leading to lower I.Q. and impaired motor skills. The Obama administration estimated that the measure would prevent 4,700 heart attacks and 130,000 asthma attacks as well as 11,000 premature deaths by also eliminating fine particulate matter linked to those ailments.

It's not my kink, but it's someone's. I have to assume. It has to be, right? Like, I just don't really see how people could be that into letting coal companies put a bunch of poison in the air if it were not not a sado-masochistic sexual thing on some level. It's not like they're going to personally profit from it.

The reason the Obama administration didn't put the rules through a serious cost-benefit analysis was because not all of the bad effects of mercury poisoning were things that cost a specific amount -- but they weren't stupid enough to just say "Oh, well then! I guess those things don't matter!," because obviously they do matter. Under the new rules, the only things that will get factored in are things that have an actual quantifiable monetary cost of some kind.

The Obama administration itself had broadly accepted that it is difficult to put a specific dollar-figure on some health benefits, for instance, avoiding lost I.Q. points in infants or other fetal harm that has been linked to pregnant women eating mercury-contaminated fish. For that reason, the original rule argued against using a strict cost-benefit analysis to decide whether the regulation should be imposed, said Joseph Goffman, the executive director of Harvard Law School's Environmental and Energy Law Program.

The new proposal fundamentally changes that approach. It recognizes that difficult-to-quantify benefits exist, but said the administrator "has concluded that the identification of these benefits is not sufficient, in light of the gross imbalance of monetized costs."

What could possibly go wrong?

[The New York Times]

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Robyn Pennacchia

Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Previously, she was a Senior Staff Writer at Death & Taxes, and Assistant Editor at The Frisky (RIP). Currently, she writes for Wonkette, Friendly Atheist, Quartz and other sites. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse

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