Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Power plant politics move left, the return of Humpty Dumpty, and more…

Carper Diem: While Congress scrambles to appear busy to stem the fallout from higher gasoline prices (see more on that, below), the political ground is quietly shifting on another big issue – the pollution from electric power plants. Environment & Energy Daily reports this morning that Senator Tom Carper (D-DE) plans tomorrow to introduce new and improved “multi-pollutant” power plant legislation. This will be (from our perspective) an improved version of the legislation that Carper introduced in the last Congress since it reportedly will not permit the trading of mercury emissions or include other deregulatory changes. According to the report, co-sponsors of this centrist bill will include Republicans Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) and Judd Gregg (R-NH).

To be sure, many environmentalists will continue to point out that the global warming pollution limits should be tougher. But this bill introduction is significant: it shows that the political middle-ground is shifting to the left. It is the final nail in the coffin of the so-called Bush Clear Skies plan. And it sets the stage for a real battle in the next Congress.


Humpty-Dumpty Returns: You may recall that on St. Patrick’s Day, a federal appeals court panel unanimously shot down the Bush administration’s attempt to carve out a major loophole that would allow power plants and other smokestack industries to avoid pollution controls when then make big changes. The judges noted that “Only in a Humpty Dumpty world” would the administration’s argument seem logical. Well, Humpty Dumpty is back! Rather than conceding that it acted illegally, the administration is asking the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to re-consider the case. I’ve got news for them. As the old rhyme goes, “All the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put humpty dumpty back together again.”


Gas and More Gas: It has been remarkable to watch the frantic “spin” over rising gasoline prices: General Motors – one of the most flagrantly anti-environmental companies in U.S. history -- takes out full-page newspaper ads proclaiming that “change is in the air.” Oil companies take out similar ads proclaiming they are blameless. And even President Bush – after long fighting against better fuel economy standards for passenger cars – declares that he wants to do something about the situation. And so tomorrow the House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on whether to give the administration new power to improve passenger car fuel economy standards.

The truth is, if the President wanted to do more than just posture on this, he could probably set better fuel economy standards tomorrow. (Existing law says that better administration standards could be subject to a congressional veto, but the congressional veto was ruled unconstitutional in an unrelated case.)

Meanwhile, 10 states are about to sue the administration to force better fuel economy standards for sport utility vehicles and other trucks.

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