Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The big polluter payoff, the return of Newt Gingrich, and more...

We’ve been reporting for the past month that the Bush administration is moving ahead with a big polluter payoff: final rules to gut the Clean Air Act’s new source review program that would enable coal-fired power plants to increase their emissions. http://blogforcleanair.blogspot.com/2008/09/bush-readies-more-deregulatory.html

And finally the major media have caught up with us! (What – you didn’t believe us until several senators wrote a letter on this topic. O, ye of little faith…)

Anyway, this disgraceful plan is on the fast track, courtesy of the White House. You will recall the Bush administration used its Clean Air Interstate Rule as a figleaf to justify this major deregulatory step. (The theory was, yes, this could increase emissions at individual power plants, but that it wouldn’t matter if aggregate power plant emissions dropped over time. Well, that theory is now in the toilet. But the big payoff continues. After all, the clock is ticking towards the end of this deregulatory era…)

Kudos to the Washington Post for an excellent editorial on this topic today.

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Other things looming:

With the economy floundering, elements of the ethanol lobby are trying a new scheme: the Omaha World-Herald reports that some ethanol companies have voted to hire former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former key Bush administration aide Karen Hughes to lobby to increase the amount of ethanol that goes into regular gasoline.
http://www.omaha.com/index.php?u_page=1208&u_sid=10466878

Newt has always been the consummate phony on environmental issues. You may recall his efforts to roll back environmental protections back in the day when he had some power and wasn’t just an oversized talking head. So it wouldn’t be out of character for him to shill for ethanol if the money’s right… (By the way, there may be something of a rift within the ethanol world. Some of the more desperate companies are making this new pitch, while we hear that the Renewable Fuels Association may be inclined to follow the process in last year’s energy bill rather than try to circumvent the rules. We will keep following this. Note also that some of our friends met with the White House last week – a follow-up to an earlier meeting held with some ethanol promoters.
http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/oira/2000/meetings/809.html

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OMB has also begun reviewing a proposed EPA rule to require mandatory reporting of greenhouse gas emissions: http://www.reginfo.gov/public/do/eAgendaViewRule?ruleID=287253 No, the Bush administration didn’t suddenly go green. This was something required by earlier funding legislation.

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Also on OMB’s plate, what could be a late gift to the oil industry. http://www.reginfo.gov/public/do/eAgendaViewRule?ruleID=287234
EPA, following an environmentalist lawsuit, agreed to follow the law (!) and decide if tougher standards were required to prevent people from getting cancer from refinery fumes. The agency has proposed no additional controls under the theory that the cancer that’s out there is an “acceptable risk.” Oh?

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One more thing – and maybe a positive. OMB has begun reviewing a final EPA rule aimed to keeping real-world emissions in check for big diesel trucks and off-road diesel engines.
http://www.reginfo.gov/public/do/eAgendaViewRule?ruleID=287151 This is something similar to the dashboard warnings in cars that let us know if there’s a problem with the emission controls.

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And a little sunshine. (Maybe.) Tomorrow in Florida, the state environmental regulation commission will take up the governor’s proposal to adopt California’s greenhouse gas motor vehicle standards. You can track the process at: http://www.floridadep.org/air/rules/ghg/california.htm.

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Quote of the month: in Jack Torry’s excellent piece in Sunday’s Columbus Dispatch, from our friend Dan Weiss with the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Dan noted that although Obama and McCain both support reductions in global warming pollution, that Obama wants to reduce the emissions through an auction of carbon permits, while McCain supports giving the permits away for free.

Notes Dan:
"Basically giving away the allowances would be a global-warming pollution bailout for the companies that caused the problem.” Yes!

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