Monday, September 12, 2005

White House threatens veto on mercury issue

Well, the week is starting off with a bang, with a vote scheduled this evening in the Senate on the Leahy-Collins-Snowe resolution against the pro-industry Bush mercury rules.

And this morning the White House has come out with a proclamation: if this resolution should pass Congress, the White House “senior advisors” would recommend that the President veto the measure. (See “Statement of Administration Policy,” below, issued this morning by the Office of Management and Budget.)

President Bush has not vetoed any thing during his years in office.

Indeed, it’s not every day that the White House even threatens to veto something. (It recalls the recent scene from HBO’s “Rome,” in which the frantic Cicero begs Tribune Anthony to veto a resolution condemning Caesar. Sometimes it seems as if this crowd comes to praise mercury, not to bury it…)

Today’s White House veto threat puts defending the industry-friendly mercury plan up there with prior White House threats to veto funding for stem cell research.

Senate James Inhofe (R-OK) and other industry defenders must be nervous if they have to call in reinforcements. Immediately below the White House statement is a rebuttal by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT):


September 12, 2005 (Senate)
STATEMENT OF ADMINISTRATION POLICY
S.J. Res. 20 – Disapproving an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule Controlling Mercury Emissions from the Power Sector
(Senator Leahy (D) VT and 31 cosponsors)

The Administration supports clean air rules to reduce mercury emissions and protect public health based on sound science, and thus strongly opposes S.J. Res. 20. This resolution would, in effect, repeal EPA’s Clean Air Mercury Rule (CAMR), which will reduce mercury emissions by nearly 70 percent. Repeal of CAMR would unnecessarily delay the first-ever reduction of mercury emissions from power plants. It would also compromise incentives for the power sector to invest now in the development of reliable and cost-effective mercury control technologies. If S. J. Res. 20 were presented to the President, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill.

On March 29, 2005, after extensive scientific study and analysis, EPA issued a final rule under the Clean Air Act (CAA) that upon full implementation will reduce coal-fired utility mercury emissions from 48 to 15 tons per year. EPA is regulating mercury emissions from coal-fired electric utility steam-generating units with CAMR, an emissions cap-and-trade rule under section 111 of the Act instead of under the less flexible command-and-control approach of section 112. CAMR establishes a regulatory program to permanently limit and cap mercury emissions from new and existing coal-fired power plants. CAMR is designed to work in combination with the Administration’s Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR) to control emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and mercury from the power sector. This multi-emissions program permits emission trading similar to the highly successful CAA Acid Rain Trading Program.

EPA’s analysis shows that CAIR and CAMR will ensure that power plant mercury emissions do not cause a public health hazard and will achieve reductions in a manner that is more cost-effective than could be achieved through the command-and-control approach. The Administration urges the Senate to support public health by defeating S.J. Res. 20.
****
Rebuttal by Senator Leahy:

Rebuttal To Administration’s Statement Of Administration Policy
On S.J Res. 20 – The Bipartisan Leahy-Collins
Resolution Of Disapproval On The EPA Mercury Rule

Administration assertion: “The Administration supports clean air rules to reduce mercury emissions and protect public health based on sound science, and thus strongly opposes S.J Res.20.”

FACTS: The rule proposed by the Administration has not been developed on sound science. In fact it has appropriately been faulted for catering to the needs and wants of polluting industries instead of following sound science. The General Accounting Office has found: “EPA did not estimate the value of the health benefits directly related to decreased mercury emissions.” The EPA Inspector General found: “EPA’s rule development process did not comply with certain Agency and Executive Order requirements, including not fully analyzing the cost-benefit of regulatory alternatives and not fully assessing the rule’s impact on children’s health.”

Administration assertion: “This resolution would, in effect, repeal EPA’s Clean Air Mercury Rule, which will reduce mercury emissions by 70 percent.”

FACTS: This resolution will force EPA to undertake a credible rulemaking – one that’s not co-opted and written just by industry. Also the Administration’s rule will not reduce emissions by 70 percent until 2030 and would not even begin reductions until 2018. The Clean Air Act would start reductions in 2008 and achieve up to 90 percent reductions, far sooner.

Administration assertion: “EPA is regulating under cap and trade rather than command and control and has been successful with other pollutants.”

FACTS: The acid rain program has been successful, but toxic mercury is not like other pollutants. Because of deposition, toxic hot spots can develop which cannot be controlled with a cap-and-trade approach. There are already a number of places in the country that have been identified with high levels of mercury contamination in fish and wildlife. The Administration’s solution ignores the dangers of mercury to communities and families living in hotspots or living downwind of mercury pollution sources.

Administration assertion: “EPA’s analysis will ensure that power plant mercury emissions do not cause a public hazard and will achieve reductions in a manner that is more cost effective than could be achieved through a MACT standard.”

FACTS: First, the Administration’s rule will not do anything to protect the 630,000 newborns at risk of elevated mercury exposure until 2018 at the earliest.

Second, mercury pollution control technology is effective, commercially available, and affordable. In fact this technology is currently being installed in two Midwest power plants. The EPA's mercury rule leaves this new technology -- and new 300,000 jobs -- on the shelf, for another 20 years.

# # # # #

Contact: David Carle (w/Leahy), 202-224-3693

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