EPA finalizes rule allowing some major polluters to follow weaker emissions standards

EPA has finalized a rule that could reclassify many “major” sources of pollution as minor ones, allowing facilities to abide by less-stringent emissions standards for dangerous substances such as mercury, lead and arsenic, according to The Hill.

The reclassification changes a 1995 rule that for decades has held major emitters to tighter standards even if their operators have taken actions to reduce their pollution — a policy known as “once in, always in.”

The agency estimated that the changes will result in up to 1,258 tons per year of additional emissions of hazardous air pollutants.

The rule allows major sources to become reclassified if they now meet the hazardous air pollutants guidelines in place for the smaller “area” polluters — producing 10 tons per year or less of a single toxin, or 25 tons a year for facilities that emit multiple toxins.

EPA argues that the current policy reduces incentives for facilities to limit their air pollution while rescinding it encourages them to do so.

“Today’s action is an important step to further President Trump’s regulatory reform agenda by providing meaningful incentives for investment that prevents hazardous air pollution,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler in a statement, adding that the rule “will end regulatory interpretations that discourage facilities from investing in better emissions technology.”

When it first proposed the rule, the EPA estimated that about 3,900 emitters could be reclassified and subjected to weaker standards than before.

The finalized version doesn’t provide an explicit estimate of how many facilities may reclassify, saying “the unique nature of each source’s decision process makes it difficult for the EPA to determine the number and type of sources that may choose to reclassify under this rule.”

It added that there are a total of 7,183 facilities currently subject to the major source standards.

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