(de)regulation nation: a mercury rule rollback

"Something as simple as the act of having fun amid fascism is a defiance of it."

Welcome to (de)regulation nation, the newsletter tracking environmental news in the Trump era.

Each issue includes updates on Trump administration rollbacks of conservation, environmental, and public health protections, as well as news from across the political spectrum about what’s going right and who’s fighting back. I call the format is B2G2: Bad, Better, Good, Great.

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bad: Trump administration is paving the way to weaken mercury pollution curbs

  • The Trump administration is setting the stage for a rollback of tough Obama-era regulation on cutting mercury pollution from coal-fired power plants.

  • The legal proposal currently under review would prohibit the EPA from considering economic “co-benefits” of the mercury rule when assessing its costs to the coal-fired power industry and benefits to public health.

  • Co-benefits in this case mean the reduction of additional toxic air pollutants thanks to the mercury controls.

  • Removing these additional benefits from the equation would the rule’s economic benefits relative to what it costs industry to implement it.

  • The administration is basing some of its legal argument on an opinion written by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, who dissented from a federal appeals court decision that upheld the mercury rule.

  • Mercury is a powerful neurotoxin that can cause brain damage in fetuses and children.

  • Read more in The New York Times.

also bad:

The EPA has taken another step to sever science from environmental policy. According to this scoop in The New York Times, it intends to dismantle its Office of the Science Advisor, which works to ensure that the best available science is used in the agency’s rule-making.

The agency has also put Ruth Etzel, the head of the agency’s Office of Children’s Health Protection on leave, a move widely reported as extremely unusual. While EPA spokespeople downplayed the move, Etzel said in an email that “I appear to be the ‘fall guy’ for their plan to ‘disappear’ the office of children’s health,” according to BuzzFeed.

The Trump administration hopes to justify its plan to stall increases in automobile fuel efficiency (which would lower greenhouse gas pollution) by claiming it’s too late to stop planetary over-heating anyway. Deep inside a massive draft environmental impact assessment of the rollback, the Department of Transportation states that a) temperatures will be a whopping 7 degrees higher on average by 2100, and thus b) decreasing auto emissions is pointless. Read more in the Washington Post.

better: The heat-death of human civilization is far from inevitable

  • The world is not yet acting strong and fast enough to prevent temperatures from rising quite a bit in the next several decades.

  • But scientists believe that there remain “pathways” the world can take — via sweeping changes in consumption, energy production, agriculture, transportation, and more — that will keep temperature rise to between 2.7 and 3.6 degrees (1.5 and 2.0 degrees Celsius).

  • Easy? No. Possible? Very.

  • Read more in this BBC interview with Dutch scientist Dr. Heleen de Coninck, one of the lead authors of the soon-to-be-released latest scientific report on climate change from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

  • Also worth reading: A somewhat (but not totally) more downbeat account about the report’s conclusions in The Guardian.

good: Opponents to air pollution rollback swamp the single public meeting on coal-friendly power plant rule

  • Supporters of environmental and public health protection testified against the EPA’s proposal to weaken power plant pollution rules, at the agency’s sole public meeting on the plan.

  • “The EPA is taking an existing rule that doesn’t do enough and making it worse,” one air quality activist told the panel. “This is something an enemy of this country would call a successful attack.”

  • Several elected officials from around the country attended to criticize the deregulatory plan.

  • Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan stated that her office will sue the Trump administration for endangering public health if it implements the plan.

  • But a politician who supports the plan, Republican state Sen. Dale Fowler, said it would “jump-start a new coal revolution in Illinois” that would create new jobs.

  • While no more public meetings on Trump’s “Affordable Clean Energy” plan are scheduled, public comments can be submitted until Oct. 31.

  • Read more at the Chicago Tribune.

  • Watch a couple minutes of a “stop killing us” protest during the meeting, as tweeted by Niina Heikkinen.

great: New Los Angeles program lets renters access solar power

  • TBH, I don’t know much about California’s energy market, except that it’s pretty highly regulated.

  • Apparently, it’s difficult for renters to purchase solar power in California, unless the landlord installs photovoltaics themselves.

  • But for Los Angelenos who rent, a new city program that “would let renters buy electricity from solar panels installed on government buildings around the city” may solve this access problem.

  • Listen to the story at Southern California public radio station KPCC.

also great: uranium mining in the Grand Canyon is still banned

  • On Monday, the Supreme Court declined to hear an industry challenge to the Obama-era ban on uranium mining in public lands next to the Grand Canyon.

  • That means that the last federal appeals court decision upholding the ban stands.

  • The Obama administration created the ban in part to preserve safe drinking water for the nearby Havasupai Tribe.

  • Read more in The Hill.

Thanks for reading (de)regulation nation, a production of Brooklyn Radio Telegraph LLC.

This newsletter is written by me, Emily J Gertz. I’m an environmental journalist, and 2018 Tow-Knight Entrepreneurial Journalism fellow at the Newmark Graduate School of Journalism — City University of New York.

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This week’s quote is by N.K. Jemisin, from the October issue of Locus magazine. For proof that what she says is true, here’s that video of a tuba player subtweetly serenading a white supremacist march with “Ride of the Valkyries.”

Send tips and feedback: emily@deregnation.com

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