The Environmental Protection Agency announced on Monday it would roll back regulations introduced under President Barack Obama designed to impose requirements on storing and releasing waste from coal-fired power plants.

The announcement from the EPA — which also found a jump in toxic leaks from waste pits — marks a scale back of rules implemented in 2015 regarding the disposal of coal ash and toxic wastewater from power plants. Coal ash, a by-product of hot coal, is often found in landfills and pits, while toxic metals like arsenic and mercury are often present in wastewater.

The EPA estimated in 2015 that its rules would “reduce the amount of toxic metals, nutrients, and other pollutants that steam electric power plants are allowed to discharge by 1.4 billion pounds and reduce water withdrawal by 57 billion gallons.”

One of the few benefits of the EPA’s proposed new rules is that they would cut costs for plant operators. The White House said these new regulations could save plant operators roughly $215 million per year. This would be a boon for a rapidly declining industry that is gradually being overshadowed by more technologically advanced forms of renewable energy, like wind and solar.


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The Trump administration also said it would authorize new compliance methods like water filtration systems. Under the new rules, power plant operators could also request deadline extensions in 2020 and benefit from eight more years of compliance to December 2028.

Several environmental organizations rebuked the EPA’s new rules, saying they feared the proposed regulations would exempt some plants from complying. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Michigan) also condemned the move.


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