Mercury is a neurotoxin with several harmful health impacts, including delaying brain development in children.
The EPA is proposing to bring back the 2012 Mercury and Air Toxics Standards rules that were first implemented during the Obama administration. The rules require power plants to reduce pollutants, including mercury and acid gases, which Biden administration officials say will improve public health.
“Sound science makes it clear that we need to limit mercury and toxins in the air to protect children and vulnerable communities from dangerous pollution,” EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan said in a statement. “EPA is committed to aggressively reducing pollution from the power sector so that all people, regardless of zip code or amount of money in their pocket, can breathe clean air and live healthy and productive lives.”
The Trump administration reversed the rules in May 2020, saying they were not “appropriate and necessary” because they were too burdensome to industry.
The EPA said it is also examining whether to make the rules more stringent.
The rules sharply reduced mercury emissions while they were in place, according to the EPA. Compared to 2010 levels, mercury emissions from power plants were down by 86% by 2017, five years after the rules were implemented, according to a news release. Acid gas emissions were also down by 96%, and non-mercury metal emissions were down by 81%.
Senate Environment and Public Works Chair Tom Carper applauded the proposed rules change.
“Every American — no matter their zip code — deserves to live in a community that is free of mercury and other harmful air pollution,” Carper said in a statement.
The EPA will take public comment on the proposal for 60 days and plans hold a virtual public hearing on the rules.
This story has been updated with additional information.