Thursday, October 27, 2005

A followup on the selling of the Bush air pollution plan

Well, we have now seen at least summary materials from the EPA multi-pollutant analysis presented this morning to several senators. Below are a few additional thoughts.

The analysis certainly corroborates what we knew earlier – that the current Clean Air Act is as good or better than the Bush dirty power industry protection plan. To underscore a point I made in an earlier note, the only reason to support the Bush plan is to cut new breaks for big coal-burning power companies.

The analysis fails to include the impact of weakening changes to the law associated with the Bush plan. You may recall that last February, the impartial Congressional Research Service noted the administration bill would eliminate some electric utility controls. (An excerpt is below.) CRS also noted that the Bush plan would make it more difficult for states to protect their citizens from dirty air. If EPA had factored these weakening changes into the analysis, the President’s plan presumably would look even worse.

As I feared, the analysis repeats the bogus argument that there isn’t enough labor to put scrubbers and NOx controls in place soon. By doctoring the analysis in this way, the EPA has artificially inflated the projected costs of the bills promoted by Senators Jeffords and Carper. In other words, this analysis has been doctored in at least two ways to make the President’s plan look better. And it still looks bad!

The legislation sponsored by Senator Jeffords would appear to blow away all alternatives in terms of public health protection. For example, the projected annual public health benefits in 2015 would be between $156 billion and $183 billion. Translation: fewer people would die early or get sick under the Jeffords plan than under alternative possibilities. The version supported earlier by Senator Carper would also be superior to the administration plan. The Jeffords bill would be the most expensive, presumably because it would be the most aggressive on global warming pollution. But the benefits would still far outpace the costs.

Total coal production would increase under all examined scenarios with the exception of Senator Jeffords’ plan. Why is it that these industry screaming mimis (and their senatorial spokespeople, including Senator Voinovich) are always crying wolf that cleaning up pollution would cause people to switch to natural gas? Raw demagoguery, perhaps. Interestingly enough, what EPA labels “interior” coal (which appears on one EPA map to include Illinois, Indiana and western Kentucky) would actually increase in the Jeffords bill. Senator Lugar, are you ready to see the light?

Because it would permit global warming pollution increases caused by more coal burning to be offset elsewhere, the Carper bill’s carbon costs are extremely modest.

One final sobering note: the problem of fine particle pollution is so widespread, that there will still be pollution problems under all scenarios in 2020. So we really need to be doing more, not less.

From the Congressional Research Service, Clear Skies and the Clean Air Act: What's the Difference? (February 25, 2005), page 18

In terms of utility controls designed to achieve the NAAQS, it must be stated that Clear Skies will not achieve either the 8-hour ozone NAAQS or the fine particulate NAAQS within the current CAA compliance deadlines, neither in terms of the reductions necessary to achieve those standards nor the timing of the reductions Clear Skies would achieve. EPA's analysis indicates that some nonattainment areas will need additional controls and time to reach attainment.(26) Clear Skies, as currently drafted, would effectively remove additional electric utility control from the suite of options available to states to achieve that additional level of control. In addition, the opt-in provision means that the reach of Clear Skies is unclear. In some areas, the removal of an industrial source from Part C or Part D could greatly reduce the options state and local authorities would have to achieve NAAQS attainment or to maintain PSD increments.

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