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Impeach Bush

EPA gives industy allowance to pollute
December 03, 2003

WASHINGTON Dec. 3 — The Bush administration on Wednesday defended a proposal to reduce mercury emissions by allowing power plants to trade emission credits. Critics say that could create mercury "hot spots" still harmful to public health.

The draft proposal would differ radically from the one offered by the Clinton administration three years ago, which would regulate mercury as a toxic substance through the use of "maximum achievable technology" at each of nearly 500 coal-fired power plants.

The latest EPA proposal would essentially cap mercury emissions from coal-burning power plants nationwide at 34 tons a year by 2010, a reduction of 30 percent from current levels, according to a copy of the document obtained by The Associated Press.

Emissions would be cut to 15 tons a 70 percent reduction by 2018.

The new plan would give each plant an emissions allowance and "allow utilities to purchase or sell allowances and adjust their emissions accordingly," according to the draft.

That would mean some plants might have to make only modest reductions, if any, if they choose to buy credits instead of adding pollution controls.

But White House spokesman Scott McClellan said: "We believe a tough, mandatory cap with trading offers promise for greater reductions in mercury emissions over a longer period because of improvements in technology and innovation that would follow."

"This is an administration that is committed to improving our air quality, to improving our water quality, and to protecting our land and to building upon the progress we have made over the past decades," McClellan said.

Democrats, including two presidential contenders, accused the administration of jeopardizing public health to help electric utilities.

The proposed mercury regulation is "giving power plants free reign to pollute ... and poison our citizens," said Democratic presidential candidate Wesley Clark.

Howard Dean, also seeking the Democratic nomination, said the Bush administration was "selling our health, our environment and our economic security to its campaign contributors."

Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota accused the White House of "choosing special interests over the health of children and families."

Mercury is a persistent substance that affects the nervous system and is especially dangerous for pregnant women and children. Mercury concentrations in fish have prompted at least 43 states to issue fish consumption advisories. Although 40 percent of mercury emissions come from the smokestacks of coal-burning power plants, those emissions have never been regulated as a pollutant.

Jeffrey Holmstead, head of EPA's air office, said a cap-and-trade approach to regulating mercury is "our favored approach because it gets us greater (emission) reductions" than relying on installation of specific technology at each plant.

He said the maximum technology approach has not been ruled out and would still be offered for public comment as the regulation moves toward completion.

Environmentalists and health advocates argue that the proposal to let companies trade emissions allowances might be desirable in dealing with certain types of pollution, such as smog-causing ozone or sulfur-producing acid rain, but it is not in the case of mercury.

William Becker, executive director of the association that represents state air pollution officials, said the latest proposal would delay mercury regulation three years until 2010, while the original one would have required pollution controls at plants by 2007.

"They are rescinding (a policy) that concluded mercury from utilities needs to be regulated ... and replacing it with a substitute that ... allows for trading between facilities without protecting local adverse impacts," said Becker.

Mercury contamination has been a growing problem, especially among those who rely on subsistence fishing in contaminated waters.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns "that one in 12 women of childbearing age carry levels of mercury in their bodies that are unsafe for a developing fetus," said Michael McCally, a clinical professor at Mount Sinai School of Medicine and president-elect of the Physicians for Social Responsibility. He said the EPA draft proposal "ignores the devastating health effects of mercury for millions of American children."

The utilities have lobbied the EPA and the White House, arguing that they need flexibility to meet new mercury pollution controls and that a trading system along with overall emission caps would help achieve that.

Utility executives met at least four times with EPA and White House Office of Management and Budget officials about the mercury issue since Sept. 24, according to OMB.

Daniel Riedinger, a spokesman for the Edison Electric Institute, said the industry does not believe emissions trading would create "hot spots" of mercury contamination.

These "hypothetical concerns about hot spots should preclude EPA from considering a regulatory option that could lead to significant reductions in (mercury) emissions but do so more cost-effectively," he said.

Copyright 2003 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

The first obvious problem is a basic question; Why is OMB talking to utility executives? OMB is a budget office and shouldn't be involved in making policy on any level. So we have a major ethics violation.

Second, almost all the states think mercury is a major problem, but Bush thinks we should let industry fix the problem and allow them to buy and sell their pollution credits. I can't imagine a more corrupt president. His supporters must be clueless about what he's doing or they simply don't care. I'm thinking they don't care. They have power and they're support Bush abusing it at every turn. So sad!