On Friday, the Trump Administration's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it did not think that current mercury emissions rules placed on coal-fired power plants were "appropriate and necessary", based on the agency's revised look at the costs and benefits of the rule.
The EPA said the proposal is meant to "correct flaws".
"I just think it's a little fuzzy math when you say, 'Reduce mercury and we have all these other benefits over here, ' as the shiny object", Wheeler told the Post last fall.
The EPA said the Trump administration was "providing regulatory certainty" by more accurately estimating the costs and benefits...
Reworking the mercury rule, which the EPA considers the priciest clean air regulation ever put forth in terms of annual cost to industry, would represent a victory for the coal industry, and in particular for Robert Murray, an important former client of Wheeler's from his days as a lobbyist.
The EPA is not reversing the Obama-era standards - with which the industry has already complied - but the agency wants to alter the underlying calculations to set a precedent for future public health rules. Mercury emitted into the air can end up in soil and water, where it has "toxic effects on the nervous, digestive and immune systems, and on lungs, kidneys, skin and eyes", in addition to causing developmental defects in children and babies, according to the World Health Organization.
The proposal, which revisits a 2011 rule limiting mercury emissions from coal plants, argues that the EPA lacked justification to curb the neurotoxin in the first place because many benefits stemmed from the overall drop in air pollution that would occur once power companies adopted new technologies.
"This action proposes... to make a revised determination that it is not appropriate and necessary to regulate HAP emissions from coal- and oil-fired power plants", the release said.
He and other opponents of the move said the Trump administration was playing with numbers, ignoring what Carper said were clear health, environmental and economic benefits to come up with a bottom line that suited the administration's deregulatory aims.
Coming one week into a government shutdown, and in the lull between Christmas and New Year, "this low-key announcement shouldn't fool anyone - it is a big deal, with significant implications", McCabe said.