Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Kerry Lieberman bill could roll back Clean Air Act

I would like to direct your attention to something that is causing real concern among environmental advocates who work on health-related clean air issues.

It’s the suggestion that public health safeguards should be weakened to aid in the “transition” to lower-carbon future energy sources.

This is pretty dense legalese, but check out the “Task Force” that would be created on page 182 of the draft.

The “Task Force” (which includes EPA, but also some historic enemies of clean-air controls) is told to explore “existing programs” and regulations for coal-fired power plants and the “effect” those programs could have on the transition to lower-carbon plants.

The “Task Force” is further directed to explore what the impact would be of permitting “exemptions” from major clean-air programs (such as controls for mercury and other hazardous air pollutants as well as standards designed to limit smog and soot-forming emissions) in order to maintain electric “reliability” during a transition period to theoretically cleaner energy. (This language appears to have come straight from the word processers of the dirty power companies that back this legislation.)

The “Task Force” is further directed to examine “Federal regulations currently under development for control of power plant air pollutants other than greenhouse gases.” That is code language for toxic mercury as well as upcoming standards to limit smog and soot-forming emissions. (As you may know, the White House is currently reviewing an EPA proposal for the latter.)

So what does this language -- obviously aided by ghost writers from the electric power industry -- mean?

It could trade more dangerous pollution today for the prospect of a shutdown later. It could block, delay or repeal vital health-related safeguards.

And (see page 186, item “e”) it literally demands that EPA “promulgate final regulations or guidance to implement the proposed changes described in subparagraph” about the mission of the “Task Force.”

As one of my friends put it, the attacks on the Clean Air Act’s smog, soot and toxics safeguards for power plants are officially underway.

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