EPA to Roll Back Clean Air and Water Protections

Environmental advocates are concerned that these rollbacks would lead to dirtier air and water and reduce or remove consequences for large-scale polluters.

The Trump administration said Thursday it is rewriting Obama-era policies governing pollution from oil and gas operations and coal ash dumps. The Environmental Protection Agency said the changes would save $100 million per year in compliance costs for electric utilities and result in up to $16 million in benefits for oil and gas operators by 2035.

The 2016 standards regarding leaks and emissions from oil and gas drilling operations aimed to reduce the amounts of methane, a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change by trapping heat in the atmosphere, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs are part of ground-level ozone pollution that can irritate asthma and contribute to respiratory disease deaths.

Environmental advocates are concerned that these rollbacks would lead to dirtier air and water and reduce or remove consequences for large-scale polluters.

"This move would put an estimated 25 million people who live in counties with dangerously unhealthy air at even greater risk from oil and gas related air pollution by rolling back measures that are flexible, cost-effective and that have been proven to work by leading states and responsible companies," said Matt Watson, a spokesman for the Environmental Defense Fund.

The EPA has also proposed amendments to the regulations regarding disposal of the ash left behind when coal is burned to generate electricity. Coal ash is typically dumped near coal-fired power plants in unlined pits, and contains toxic heavy metals that can, over time, leach into groundwater or nearby rivers and potentially contaminate drinking water. The amendments would allow state regulators more authority over the material’s disposal.

The EPA said it will be taking comments on whether future deadlines for ash pollution cleanup efforts will remain or be rescheduled.

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