The Trump administration is moving to undo rules made under the Obama administration to limit water pollution from coal-fired power plants.
In a letter sent to the coalition of energy companies, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, announced his decision; these companies lobbied against the water pollution regulations in 2015.
The rule requires utilities to cut the amount of toxic metals in the wastewater that is piped from their plants into lakes and rivers and often is a source of drinking water. The deadline to comply to this rule was until the year 2018. Arsenic, mercury, lead and other harmful contaminants leach from the huge pits of waterlogged ash left behind after burning coal to generate electricity.
A petition was sent to Mr. Pruitt by The Utility Water Act Group to reverse course on the rules, as they claimed it would end up in plant closures and job losses.
In a response on Wednesday, Mr. Pruitt said that while EPA reconsiders the regulations, he would delay the compliance with the rules. It also added that EPA would request U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit to freeze ongoing lawsuits filed by energy companies over the rules.
The move is part of the effort Trump administration is undertaking to scrap the stricter environmental regulations put in place by his predecessor, Barack Obama. President Trump has pledged to reverse the decline in coal mining jobs, which has been in effect for the last decade.
Environmental groups have opposed the regulatory rollback and called it shortsightedness. A lawyer with the advocacy group Waterkeeper Alliance, Pete Harrison told Associated Press:
“Scott Pruitt is continuing his scorched-earth crusade to sweep aside anything that gets in the way of fossil-fuel industry profits. This rollback gives a blank check to the power companies, and it directly threatens drinking water supplies across the country.”