Thursday, December 09, 2004

The Gathering Storm Over Clean Air in Congress

Dear friends,

Strap on your seat belt. It will soon become VERY interesting.

Sen. James Inhofe (who was last seen applying pressure to EPA Administrator Mike Leavitt to delay upcoming interstate pollution rules) is now planning to drop the other shoe.

Inhofe is tentatively planning to "mark up," or draft, legislation in his Senate committee in February. The word is he plans that month to deal both with highway AND the so-called "clear skies" legislation. He plans two hearings on the latter in January, when the new Congress convenes.

Inhofe is asking power companies to call the White House and squeeze Leavitt; Inhofe realizes that if the interstate rules are made final, the alleged intellectual rationale for "clear skies" pretty much goes down the drain. (The real reason for it, of course, is that it would repeal numerous tools in the current Clean Air Act as well as delay compliance dates for meeting clean air standards. That's why most of the big coal-burning power companies support "clear skies.")

Poor Leavitt has put a lot of his credibility on the line by repeatedly asserting he will issue the clean air rules by the end of the year. He runs the risk of being "Whitman-ed" here if the rules are delayed.

We will, of course, continue to monitor this activity closely. And will have more to say next week about the monitoring activity. As always, don't hesitate to check in any time.

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