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Bush Environmental Laws: Not based in science or law

10/06/04 | by david2 [mail] | Categories: General
It was fairly obvious what the Bush administration was up to when they canceled the New Source Review laws.

I've been continually interested in how the cancellation happens. The old rules are cancelled after being called inefficient. Then new rules either are not put into place, or if they are, the result is a significant increase in pollution.

In this particular case, the New Source rules were defanged by raising the level of 'upgrade' needed before they'd be triggered.

It used to be that spending 5% or more of the value of a power station for maintainence would invoke the rules calling for pollution expenditures on pollution control at that plant.

That 5% threshold was increased by so much that as long as the power companies didn't replace the station entirely, they could do pretty much what they wanted to without invoking the New Source Review rules.

The end result was a reduction in the amount spent on pollution control. Not only that, but the rules had a side-effect of hamstringing many of the existing prosecutions already underway.

In this editorial we find out from a congressional report just what the Bush Administration said wouldn't happen has happened.

In June 2002, for instance, Jeffrey Holmstead, an assistant E.P.A. administrator and the main architect of the new rule, told the Senate that he had been assured by the "enforcement folks" at his agency and the Justice Department that there would not be a "negative impact on enforcement cases."

Suspecting otherwise - and suspecting Mr. Holmstead knew better - Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont ordered an internal investigation, which Ms. Tinsley has now produced. It confirms Mr. Leahy's worst fears. Even though the Northeastern states, as well as advocacy groups like the Natural Resources Defense Council, have temporarily blocked the new rule in court, its looming presence has badly undermined the government's ability to enforce old cases, let alone pursue new ones - exactly what the "enforcement folks" predicted from the start. More broadly, Ms. Tinsley said she could find no basis for the new rule in science or law, and urged her superiors to restore the old one.

I'm wondering this: If the true intent of these changes was to relax things for the power industry which would (and has) resulted in greater and extended levels of pollution, and if this had valid reasoning behind it, then why didn't they simply represent their case this way?

By hiding behind words like 'increased efficiency' they're implicitly suggesting that their true justifications need hiding from the public, leading to the (not unreasonable) charge that they've got something to hide.

If increasing profits for power companies at the expense of the environment is your objective, and if this is a valid and reasonable thing to do, they why not simply say that and lay out the justifications and reasons for everyone to see?

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