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How and Why the U.S. EPA Is Changing its Policy on Mercury

Publication Overview

How and Why the U.S. EPA Is Changing its Policy on Mercury

President Trump wants to loosen the U.S. EPA's regulations on mercury. We explore what the proposed changes are, why they would be a mistake and how they could affect the lives of Americans and even Canadians.

Key Messages

  • President Donald Trump is trying to change the criteria by which the U.S. EPA judges the impact of mercury on human health, and duly reduce the restrictions on how much mercury can end up in the atmosphere.
  • The existing mercury regulations have been highly effective at improving human health and saving lives.
  • The proposed loosening of regulations would ignore the value of "co-benefits"—a mistake that does not paint a complete picture of the regulations' effectiveness and would set a dangerous precedent for the U.S. EPA.

11,000 premature deaths prevented, 4,700 fewer heart attacks and 130,000 fewer asthma attacks.

These are just some of the benefits of the current U.S. EPA regulations on mercury emissions. These are the very regulations that President Trump is trying to change this year.

In short, the EPA is reconsidering the importance of co-benefits in its calculations to determine the impact of its mercury regulations on industry and public health. Co-benefits—side benefits that are in addition to the direct benefits resulting from a policy—are traditionally assigned a monetary value and included in EPA policy calculations to justify pollution regulations.

In this short policy brief, we explain what the intended changes are, why discounting the value of co-benefits is a mistake and sets a dangerous precedent for the U.S. EPA's regulations procedure going forward, and what this could mean for the lives of millions of American and Canadians.

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