Monday, March 14, 2011

Lobbying heats up on EPA power plant toxic proposal

[from Politico Pro]

The utility industry has been storming the White House in an effort to sway officials as they prepare to release what could be the Obama administration's most significant environmental regulation.

Industry representatives have met with White House regulatory officials — including Chief of Staff Bill Daley — to discuss the upcoming rule on at least six separate occasions in recent weeks, according to records from the Office of Management and Budget.

The meetings come as the White House prepares to sign off on the EPA's air toxics rule for power plants.

The EPA is facing a Wednesday court deadline to issue a draft rule to curb mercury and other air toxics from utilities after a federal appeals court in 2008 ruled that the George W. Bush administration's plans to slash mercury from power plants were illegal. With the Obama EPA expected to impose a far stricter standard on the industry, power sector officials haven't been shy about telling the administration what they'd like to see.
In all, the EPA and the OMB met with industry representatives and attorneys at least six times: Feb. 28 with Exelon Corp; Feb. 28 with Ameren, Hunton & Williams, Luminant Power, Southern Company, Progress Energy and DTE Energy; March 1 with Edison International, Stuntz, Davis & Staffier and Edison Mission Energy; March 3 with PSEG, Calpine Corp., Constellation Energy, Exelon and M.J. Bradley & Associates; March 8 with Constellation Energy, NextEra Energy and Exelon Corp.; and March 10 with Anik Coal, Podesta Group, Troutman Sanders and the National Mining Association.

The rule making has attracted the attention of top White House brass, including Obama's chief of staff, Bill Daley, who attended the March 8 meeting along with the top White House regulatory official Cass Sunstein, Council on Environmental Quality No. 2 Gary Guzy and EPA air chief Gina McCarthy...

Frank O'Donnell, president of the advocacy group Clean Air Watch, is concerned that the White House is acting on behalf of industry groups to pressure EPA to water down its rules.

"We think if EPA is allowed to do an honest job, it will set very aggressive standards that will bring the worst performers out there up to the standards of the best performers," he said.

But O'Donnell said he's worried that Sunstein and other White House officials are pressuring the EPA "to rewrite the rule at the last minute" to include more "loopholes" for industries.

Environmentalists, unions and public health groups have also been flooding the White House to make their case..

Union groups including the AFL-CIO and the United Mine Workers for America have also met with the White House on the rule, as have public health groups including the American Lung Association, American Academy of Pediatrics and Physicians for Social Responsibility.

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