Thursday, March 29, 2007

EPA prepares to release terrible rule involving particle soot

The U.S. EPA is preparing as soon as this afternoon to release what we believe will be a terrible rule involving particle soot. (Or will they do the usual Friday bad-news dump?) The rule has been pending for quite some time and was officially okayed yesterday by the White House Office of Management and Budget. (See at http://www.reginfo.gov/public/do/eoDetails?rrid=114278)

Technically, the rule involves the guidelines that states are expected to follow in order to meet the fine-particle soot standards that EPA (yes, the Clinton administration) set in 1997. More than 200 counties are in violation of those standards. About 88 million people are exposed to legally harmful levels of particle soot. Particle soot can cause death and disease. It has been linked to cancer, heart attacks and asthma attacks, among other health problems.

Prepare for EPA to do a lot of spin work when they announce this new rule.

In reality, this will be a dirty power industry protection plan. And it may also hamper state efforts to meet these critical public health standards.

We are informed that EPA will proceed with and expand on its plan, initially proposed in September 2005, to exempt electric power plants from a requirement to use “reasonably available” pollution controls if the plants are within the zone covered by EPA’s cap-and-trade so-called Clean Air Interstate Rule. In simple terms, this means that some power plants may comply simply by buying pollution “credits” – and not use any pollution controls whatsoever.

This is a flagrant gift to the electric power industry. It means some local communities could face continuing pollution problems longer than necessary. (It’s also not a great deal for consumers, since reducing electric power industry pollution is among the most cost-effective ways to deal with this problem.)

State and local air quality regulators protested this bad idea when EPA first floated it because it will make it more difficult for them to do their jobs.

There are other bad aspects to this rule from what we have been able to glean – including esoteric legalese that could impose an extra burden on state agencies to demonstrate the need to require pollution controls on other smokestack industries.

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