The Trump war on the American people continues unabated. It now includes a plan to roll back a rule that went into effect in 2012 limiting the amount of mercury that coal generating stations can release into the environment. You might think that Exelon, one of the largest electricity generators in the country, would embrace such a rollback, but in fact its representatives met with EPA officials on November 1 to oppose the rollback plan.
According to a report in The Guardian, “The investments made in response to [the mercury limitation rule] have provided good paying jobs while also supporting employment in mining, transportation, distribution and other industries, including in the coal industry. Repealing [the rule] would itself eliminate jobs or inhibit job creation,” the company told the EPA. As part of its submission to the agency, it included an analysis supporting its position provided by ADA Carbon Solutions which argues the EPA “should leave [the rule] unaltered.”
Exelon services more than 10 million customers all across the United States, It has annual revenues of around $34 billion and employs more than 34,000 people. Its corporate headquarters is in Chicago. It is also the largest operator of nuclear power plants in the United States.
It argues that weakening the rule on mercury emissions could eliminate a number of jobs, especially in the South where coal-fired generating plants are prevalent. It would also waste billions of dollars that have already been invested to comply with the current rule. It says the rule as presently written has had “substantial” health and environmental benefits. Despite the hue and cry from the industry about how expensive it would be, the rule has cost only a small fraction of what was originally anticipated, Exelon says.
In 2012, the Obama administration changed the way the EPA calculates the economic impact of its environmental rules. It required the agency to consider not only the cost to industry but also the costs to society. Most people know by now that mercury is a health hazard. According to the World Health Organization:
- Exposure to mercury – even small amounts – may cause serious health problems, and is a threat to the development of the child in utero and early in life.
- Mercury may have toxic effects on the nervous, digestive and immune systems, and on lungs, kidneys, skin and eyes.
- Mercury is considered by WHO as one of the top ten chemicals or groups of chemicals of major public health concern.
The energy sector furiously opposed the mercury rule when it was promulgated by the EPA in 2012. It challenged the rule in court but lost in the DC Circuit Court. It should be noted that one member of that court who dissented from the majority opinion is the newest member of the US Supreme Court.
The EPA’s new plan, which is to strip out any economic and health benefits to the community from its rule making process, is further evidence of how the Trump administration is operating much like a criminal conspiracy.
It is widely believed the rollback of the mercury rule is being proposed solely to please one of Trump’s largest campaign donors, Robert Murray, head of the largest privately owned coal company in America. Murray has ready access to the White House and allegedly whispered in Trump’s shell-like ear after he was elected that it would be awfully nice if the mercury rule was watered down.
Furthering the conspiracy notion is Andrew Wheeler, the acting head of the EPA. He was once a lawyer in a firm that represented Murray Coal. Reasonable people could conclude that the US government is now committed to enriching one wealthy campaign donor at the expense of citizens who need protection from rapacious behavior by corporations that endangers their health and that of their children.
The mercury rule rollback has a dangerous corollary. If in the future the EPA is only permitted to consider the economic impact of its proposed rules on industry and is barred from taking economic and health impacts on the citizens of the country into account, the EPA can overlook those factors in all its rule-making activities. As such, it will become nothing more than a servant of corporations. That hardly seems to square with the notion of a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people,” which is ostensibly why the United States was created in the first place.
Kudos to Exelon for pushing back against the “government for sale to the highest bidder” policies of the Trump maladministration.