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Trump's EPA deals environment another blow

To help some of the country’s dirtiest electric-power plants save a little money, the Environmental Protection Agency is willing to imperil the lives and health of Americans who live downstream from them.

A new rule that relaxes restrictions on ash pollution is the latest effort by President Donald Trump’s administration to sustain coal power in the face of crushing competition from renewables. And like the others, it’s sure to prove ineffective, wasteful and hugely damaging to the environment.

The new action relaxes an Obama-administration effort to protect the water supply from mercury, arsenic, lead and other toxic components of coal ash. That rule had required plants to remove heavy metals from wastewater containing pollutants scrubbed from smokestacks and to use dry disposal methods to deal with the “bottom ash” from boilers rather than wash it away.

The revision — enacted under the EPA leadership of Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist — weakens the wastewater cleaning requirements and allows plants to continue to flush some bottom ash.

It also extends compliance deadlines until the last day of 2025, or the end of 2028 for plants that voluntarily adopt improved pollution-control technologies or promise to close or switch to natural gas by then.

For the next eight years, in other words, coal ash will continue to be discharged into enormous, notoriously leaky holding pits and reservoirs, from which it will inevitably spill into rivers, streams and lakes, where the toxic metals will accumulate in fish and the ecosystem at large.

Although it’s hard to predict exactly how much damage this toxic pollution will cause, it is known to cause cancer, respiratory illnesses, neurological disorders and other diseases.




Joe Vadala’s question was heartbreaking in every way imaginable.

Vadala, a high school teacher whose fight against multiple sclerosis has left him immunocompromised, looked Joe Biden in the eye last week during CNN town hall in Scranton, Pa., told him he wanted to teach, but “I don’t want to die,” and leave his wife, who’d lost her own mother to COVID-19, a widow.

Vadala wanted to know if Biden would require kids to get vaccinated for COVID-19 the same way they’re now required to get measles-mumps-rubella vaccinations before they can attend school.

Biden listened carefully. Then his face was clouded by something far away, haunting, an echo of a time familiar, yet not familiar.

It was empathy.

“Ah, man, I’m so sorry,” Biden told Vadala, before going on to say he wouldn’t issue a vaccine mandate until it was proven safe for children. But, he added, emphasizing, “if Fauci says a vaccine is safe, I would take the vaccine. We should listen to the scientists, not to [President Donald Trump].”


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