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EPA weakens regulations on mercury pollution

The Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday announced it has created a new method of calculating the costs and benefits of controlling the release of toxic metals like mercury by oil and coal-fired power plants, weakening the existing regulation.

Environmental organizations say this will likely increase air pollution, with The New York Times' Lisa Friedman and Coral Davenport writing, "By reducing the positive health effects of regulations on paper and raising their economic costs, the new method could be used to justify loosening restrictions on any pollutant that the fossil fuel industry has deemed too costly to control."

The standards were enacted in 2012, when the Obama administration required power plants to install pollution controls in order to curb emissions of mercury, which is linked to brain damage. This move cost the industry $9.6 billion annually. One of Trump's top fundraisers, former Murray Energy Corporation CEO Robert Murray, told administration officials shortly after Trump's inauguration that rolling back mercury controls was on his "wish list," the Times reports. The company filed for bankruptcy last year, and is now undergoing a reorganization.