Thursday, March 15, 2007

EPA comes up with new pollution loophole: blame the wind!

The US EPA today announced final rules that would broaden a loophole to permit some industries to escape pollution cleanup.

Under this new rule, states could ignore monitored high-pollution days if the high levels can be ascribed to something allegedly “exceptional” – like a “high-wind event.”

This new loophole came about because Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) slipped this provision into a transportation bill two years ago.

It should be noted that in calculating compliance with clean-air standards, states are already permitted a certain number of mulligans. This new rule would permit more.

Some of these probably aren’t that controversial – for example, ignoring pollution caused by a terrorist attack. (It is unclear if Jack Bauer would receive a similar pass.)

But some of these “exceptional events” seem over the top. For example, permitting states to ignore pollution caused by a chemical spill. (If you’re the chemical company, causing a spill might just be the ticket to permitting you to avoid cleanup.) Permitting an exemption for “transported pollution” – EPA cites “data affected by emissions from mining and agricultural activities” – also seems pretty fishy.

Our favorite, however, is the exemption for “high-wind events” which EPA defines as “events that affect ambient particulate matter concentrations through the raising of dust or through the re-entrainment of material that has been deposited . In some locations, concentrations of coarse particles like PMlo are most likely affected by these
types of events, although PM2 .5 standards may be exceeded under such circumstances as well.”

Windy days happen pretty often, don’t they?

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