Bush is at it again

Last week it was the Endangered Species Act; now it's the Clean Air Act. And this time, he’s ticked off more than just your average environmentalist.

A coalition of New England governors—both Democrat and Republican—are banding together to try to stop Bush from undermining the Clean Air Act by relaxing pollution control requirements on power plants.

Currently, the Act’s New Source Review (NSR) program requires owners of older power plants to upgrade air pollution controls when facility modification results in increased annual emissions. The key word here is annual, though. Bush’s proposal wants to change the rule by requiring facilities to make pollution control upgrades only if the plant’s modifications don’t result in a change of its hourly emissions.

Sure, a change from annual to hourly may seem like a small detail, but consider this: If a plant is modified to work better, that most likely means it will also be able to operate for longer hours. And longer hours plus the same old mediocre air pollution controls equals more annual emissions. Nice try, Bush. 

Connecticut Governor M. Jodi Rell, who is leading the coalition, says it best. From the press release:

“The EPA is talking about tinkering with the fine print of regulations so that older power plants making upgrades will not be required to install pollution control devices. Once again we face the spectacle of the very federal agency charged with protecting the environment engaging in behavior that would actually diminish the quality of our natural resources. This story is getting old. It is time for it to stop.”

According to the governor’s office, Governor Rell and her colleagues have written to EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson to spell out reasons why that agency should not change Clean Air Act requirements for upgraded power plants. Unfortunately, their calls of outrage may fall on deaf ears considering that Johnson has been more of an environmental foe than friend under the Bush Administration.

So what kind of impact will this change have if it does go through? A lot, actually, since a majority of the nation’s coal-fired plants are pretty old (between 27 and 57 years) and are due for an upgrade any day. “If the EPA’s rule change is adopted,” Governor Rell said, “there would be a dramatic increase in annual pollution from these units because they will be operating for more hours per day.” That means an increase in air pollutants like mercury, fine particulate matter, and smog.

Unfortunately, this concern is only one of many that have environmentalists counting down the days until Obama is inaugurated. According to an ENN article, the Bush administration has until at least December 19 to publish rules that will become final before President-elect Barack Obama takes office, a fact Bush is well aware of as he strives to be named the Environment’s Worst US President.

In the interest of saving time (and the Earth), we at Plenty would like to assure President Bush that he is already the clear winner of that title.


By: Jessica A. Knoblauch