Bush Administration Believed to Be ‘Fast-Tracking’ Change in EPA Pollution Rule

  • Published on October 30th, 2008

air pollution

[social_buttons]EPA officials have been working on a fast track to meet a Saturday deadline for a new rule that would weaken pollution regulations for power plants, allowing them to increase emissions without adding new controls, according to reports.

In essence, the Bush administration’s proposal would open a loophole and allow power plants to upgrade without installing costly new air pollution equipment.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had outlined the most recent iteration of the rules earlier this year which would encourage older power plants to extend their lifespans and make upgrades without having to install new equipment.

The change would come in the so-called “new source review” rules which require power plants undergoing renovations to ensure air quality is not significantly degraded from that work. But the proposed rules are tied to an hourly rate of emissions. As long as hourly emissions stay at or below a historical maximum, power plants would be treated as if they were running more cleanly, even if their total emissions increased as plant operators stepped up operations.

According to an EPA career official who spoke only on the condition of anonymity and former EPA attorney John Walke, concerns in the agency were that the analysis justifying the rule change was weak and the administration didn’t plan to open the analysis to a public comment period, as is customary with such rule changes (or perhaps even required by the Administrative Procedure Act).

Walke, who’s now the director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s clean air program, said that EPA officials in two departments told him that they’d been instructed to finalize the rule by Saturday. When such rules are made, it’s common practice for the White House and the vice president’s office to give the EPA their views before the EPA chief makes a decision. But, finalizing rules more than two months before a new U.S. president takes office makes it harder for the new administration to undo those rules.

The EPA is under no obligation to reveal internal deliberations, so in many cases the public never knows what objections may have been raised when/if the proposed rule change is opened for public comment.

The news comes just a week after a GAO report found what Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) called, “shortcomings in the measures used by the Environmental Protection Agency to report the effectiveness of its civil and criminal enforcement programs to Congress and the public.”

Image: pfala via flickr under a Creative Commons License

About the Author

is the founder of ecopolitology and the executive editor at LiveOAK Media, a media network about the politics of energy and the environment, green business, cleantech, and green living. When not reading, writing, thinking or talking about environmental politics with anyone who will listen, Tim spends his time skiing in Colorado's high country, hiking with his dog, and getting dirty in his vegetable garden.

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