The Biden administration will take aim at a Trump-era rule that critics argued would allow dangerous substances including arsenic and mercury to leach into waterways from coal-fired power plants.
The EPA said in a notice published Monday on its website that in the fall of 2022, it will propose a rule to consider more stringent protections but will keep the current rules in place for the time being.
In a statement, EPA Administrator Michael ReganMichael ReganFormer EPA chief to chair pro-Trump think tank's environmental center Overnight Energy & Environment — Effort to repeal Arctic refuge drilling advances EPA seeks protections for Alaska's Bristol Bay, undercutting mining project MORE defended the action, saying that the agency “determined that moving forward with implementing the existing regulations would ensure that water resources are protected now, while we quickly move to strengthen water quality protections and further reduce power plant pollution.”
Meanwhile, some environmental critics said they wished the EPA would move to get rid of the Trump rule more quickly.
"The promise to start rulemaking over a year from now ... leaves this entire 'commitment' pretty hollow," Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said via email.
In 2015, the Obama administration set requirements for treating discharges of toxic pollution from power plants.
The Trump rule loosened requirements for certain pollution streams, delayed the implementation of these changes and exempted some plants.
Nevertheless, the Trump administration claimed that its rule would actually reduce pollution because it expected power plants to participate in a voluntary incentive program for installing pollution controls.
Critics expressed skepticism about whether enough plants would participate in the program.