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For more than three years, the Trump administration has prided itself on working with industry to unshackle companies from burdensome environmental regulations. But as the Environmental Protection Agency prepares to finalize the latest in a long line of rollbacks, the nation’s power sector has sent a different message: Thanks, but no thanks. Exelon, one of the nation’s largest utilities, told the EPA that its effort to change a rule that has cut emissions of mercury and other toxins is “an action that is entirely unnecessary, unreasonable, and universally opposed by the power generation sector.” Kathy Robertson, a senior manager for environmental policy at the company, said the industry long ago complied with the rule. “And it works,” she said. “The sector has gotten so much cleaner as a result of this rule.” Despite a chorus of opposition from unions, business groups and electric utilities, the EPA is on the verge of finalizing its proposal as part of a broader effort to overhaul how the government calculates the health benefits of cleaner air. Coal executives have lobbied for it, arguing it represented one of the worst excesses of what President Trump calls “the war on coal.”
The cleanup settlement on the table is the result of high-stakes negotiations between EPA, state and local governments and oil company Atlantic Richfield, now a subsidiary of energy giant BP. It commits Atlantic Richfield to spend more than $150 million to remove tons of buried mine waste, capture and treat dirty water and maintain environmental protections forever. And it came about in large part because in 2017, the Trump administration put Butte on a priority list of 21 Superfund sites targeted for, quote, "immediate and intense attention." This week's announcement is an environmental victory the EPA can claim at a time that it's facing intense criticism for rolling back regulations on polluters. But independent Superfund expert Kate Probst says it needs to be viewed from a big-picture perspective.
The Trump administration is working with Republican Senate leaders to advance legislation giving the attorney general power to set online speech guidelines along with the opportunity to access everything Americans do with their digital devices. There are plenty of things Congress can do to hold Big Tech accountable. I’d start with passing a strong privacy law, such as my Mind Your Own Business Act, which includes tough enforcement provisions for tech executives, including the possibility of jail. And concerns about anti-competitive practices, including the Facebook-Instagram merger, deserve serious investigation from the Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission. I stand ready to work with anyone to hold the biggest corporations accountable, whether for dodging taxes, extorting Medicare or ripping off consumers. I draw the line at putting any politician in charge of what people can say or how they can say it, whether it’s on the Internet or anywhere else.