Thursday, October 27, 2005

Bush revvs up lobbying blitz for air pollution plan

It’s not exactly an auspicious day for the White House to begin a new sales pitch to the Senate (on the day Harriet Miers was forced to withdraw), but even so, the Bush administration is revving up a new push to sell its air pollution plan to Congress. (This is the thing they call “clear skies,” but I wouldn’t accept their attempt to frame it. It could just as easily be called the “dirty power industry protection plan.”)

The biggest question out there is why are they doing this?

So try this on for size. There is a pretty solid rumor out there that this sales pitch is the product of a deal that the White House made early this year with some of the major power companies like Cinergy and AEP and big coal companies.

Here’s how the deal was explained to me: these companies would support the so-called EPA Clean Air Interstate Rule as long as 1) the final rule was doctored to allocate more emission credits to coal burning states – something the administration did; and 2) the White House pledged to keep fighting in Congress to eliminate other requirements for the coal and power companies – exactly what the dirty power industry protection plan would do. See below for more specifics if you have forgotten them.

Now that the interstate rule is in place, there’s really nothing to be gained by this attempt to re-write the law – except to cut new breaks for big coal-burning power companies. (Again, see more on that, below.) In fact, the proposed legislation might even permit more toxic mercury emissions than the EPA’s dreadful, industry-written rule that probably will be overturned in court.

Some additional questions

We haven’t yet seen their new analysis. But, for those unfortunate enough to delve into it, please permit me to raise a few additional questions worth asking as you evaluate it.

--Question: are the projected impacts of the interstate rule considered in the EPA analysis as part of the “baseline” for purposes of comparing the Bush legislation and alternatives? If not, then isn’t this analysis fundamentally flawed?

--Which plan has higher projected health benefits in 2015? (I’d be willing to bet it’s not the Bush plan.)

--Is the analysis rigged to repeat the earlier Bush claims that there isn’t a sufficient labor force to clean up power plants earlier than the Bush plan? (Please recall that the pollution control industry said labor was adequate to do the cleanup five years earlier. Note at http://www.icac.com/files/public/pr032904.pdf )

This is a critical question in evaluating cost projections for mercury. The bogus Bush assumption drives up the projected costs of other, more aggressive cleanup plans like that proposed by Senator Tom Carper (D-DE) or Senator Jim Jeffords (I-VT).

--What are the projected cost figures associated with taking some modest steps (as Carper would) to limit global warming pollution? I am willing to bet the answer is peanuts.

I don’t think this new lobbying blitz will change any votes in the Senate.

**

Some polluter breaks in the “dirty power industry protection plan” (S. 131):

It would postpone dates for meeting public health standards for smog and soot

It would block states from taking action to crack down on pollution from other states

It would permit power plants to “trade” toxic mercury “credits”

It would eliminate current protections for local communities

It would eliminate safeguards for national parks and wilderness areas

It would repeal the controversial new source review enforcement tool

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