PennFuture Blog

Our Perspectives on the Latest Issues

Trump Administration Rolls Back Air Protections from Fossil Fuel Plants

Recently, the United States Environmental Protection Agency rolled back protections under the federal Mercury Air Toxics Standards regulations for both coal refuse plants and oil- and gas-fired plants.

The MATS for coal-and oil-fired electric generating units (EGUs) were promulgated by EPA on February 16, 2012.  MATS established acid gas hazardous air pollutant emission standards for all coal-fired power plants.

If you live in Cambria or Venango County and want to help us fight against increased air pollution in your community, please contact PennFuture’s Vice President of Legal & Policy, Abigail Jones, by Friday, June 12. She can be reached at or by calling 570-216-3313.

Coal Refuse Plants

On April 15, EPA finalized a subcategory for plants, which would impact six EGUs that burn waste coal from other coal mining operations and use the ashes of mine reclamation projects. Four of those units (at three plants) are located in Pennsylvania: Scrubgrass Generating Company (Kennerdell, PA); Colver Power Project (Colver, PA); and Ebensburg Power (Ebensburg, PA). 

The problem with this new subcategory is that it allows for more acid gas pollution from these plants. But, these plants were already meeting or certified to EPA that they would meet the acid gas emission limits set under the MATS, indicating that a subcategory that allows these facilities to pollute more is unjustified for the safe and continued operation of these plants.

Oil and Gas Fired Plants

On May 22, EPA issued an about-face regarding its 2016 decision that it is “appropriate and necessary” to regulate hazardous air pollutants from oil-and gas-fired EGUs under Section 112 of the Clean Air Act (CAA). EPA now claims that it is not appropriate and necessary to regulate emission these air toxics because the costs outweigh the benefits. 

EPA’s reversal of its prior determination, however, is based upon fundamental legal errors, flawed reasoning (including the failure to consider all benefits from the regulation), and is unauthorized under the CAA. 

In April 2019, PennFuture joined others in submitting comments in opposition to both the proposed subcategory rule and EPA’s revised “appropriate and necessary” finding in April 2019. 

Both of these rollbacks have the potential to negatively impact our air quality in Pennsylvania. Our communities have already been plagued by the onslaught of cuts by the Trump Administration to the fundamental protections of our water quality and environment, and now the EPA is working hard to cut much needed protections to our air quality. We cannot let these unsupported and illegal rollbacks stand.  PennFuture will fight for our right to clean air and pure water in Pennsylvania.

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