Friday, September 09, 2005

EPA proposes new loopholes for power industry in late Friday-afternoon rule dump

It’s suspicious that EPA would issue a 464-page rule proposal late on a Friday afternoon. (How many people will actually read it?) We’ve begun reading it, and have found that EPA is proposing to give yet another break to the electric power industry. EPA is proposing new loopholes that could permit electric power plants in dirty-air areas to avoid tough pollution controls.

Under this proposal, power companies would NOT have to install “reasonably available” pollution controls as long as they are located in states that participate in the “cap and trade” program that EPA calls the Clean Air Interstate Rule.

This is yet another gift to the electric power industry – one that could subject breathers to unnecessarily high levels of fine-particle pollution, which has been linked to premature death and numerous health problems.

Just a quick bit of background: last year EPA listed areas of the country out of compliance with the national health standard for fine particle pollution (PM 2.5) that was set in 1997. For many months the White House has sat on a companion rule which is supposed to outline for states how they are supposed to meet those standards.

Late this afternoon, EPA finally slipped the rule out. See at

Discussion of the proposed loopholes begins on page 222. I am including a snippet of the jargon-laden material below. One glaring loophole is that EPA is proposing that power plants [EGUs in the jargon of the bureaucracy] would not have to install reasonably available pollution controls – a minimal requirement in the past for big sources of pollution located in areas that violate public health standards – if the state in question participates in the regional cap-and-trade program under the Clean Air Interstate Rule.

As many states (and environmentalists) have pointed out, that interstate rule will NOT be adequate to meet public health standards in many areas.

Under this new proposal, a power plant wouldn’t necessarily have to be controlled at all – even if it is contributing to local pollution problems. Why should it get a bye from cleanup just because the state is using a cap and trade plan?

(By the way, if EPA counters that a state could require additional controls anyway, please recall that can be very, very difficult politically if not required by EPA.)

[from EPA’s proposal, starting at page 222]

In this rulemaking, EPA is proposing to determine that
in states that fulfill their CAIR emission reductions
entirely through emission reductions from EGUs, CAIR would
satisfy SO2 RACT requirements for EGU sources in eastern
PM2.5 nonattainment areas covered by CAIR. EPA is proposing
a similar finding for NOx RACT for EGUs, subject to a
requirement that existing SCRs in those nonattainment areas
be operated year-round beginning in 2009. The EPA believes
that the SIP provisions for those sources meet the ozone Nox
RACT requirement. A State that is relying on this
conclusion for the affected sources should document this
reliance in its RACT SIP.


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