EPA Delays Key Emission Rules
Hold your breath until the agency acts.
By ROBERT UKEILEY
It’s too soon to say for certain, but the Obama administra- tion’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) seems slow o; the mark in forcing dirty sources of energy to internalize
their cost of pollution. For example, in April, the EPA issued
a proposed ;nding that greenhouse gas emissions endanger
public health and welfare. ;at sounds good, but an endangerment ;nding and $1.50 will get you a cup of co;ee. ;e
endangerment ;nding is just the ;rst step in curtailing emissions of greenhouse gases. ;e next critical step is to actually
impose emission limits.
;e EPA might have proposed emission limits for greenhouse gases at the same time that it proposed the endangerment ;nding. It chose not to. To be fair, this is part of the
administration’s strategy to push Congress toward comprehensive climate legislation. ;e administration says it prefers
a legislative approach to greenhouse gas limits but will impose
those rules itself if Congress won’t.
;e problem is, according to experts on climate change, we don’t have much time to make
serious reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
A strategy that creeps toward regulations two or
three years down the road is not the aggressive
strategy we need. A be;er approach would be
to move forward quickly with executive branch
regulations that can be supplanted if and when
appropriate legislation kicks in.
;e EPA has been moving slowly elsewhere,
too. In 1997, the agency created ambient air-quality standards for ;ne particulate ma;er,
commonly called soot. It causes illnesses costing
billions of dollars in health care and lost wages
and roughly 20,000 deaths annually. ;ere is no
threshold level below which soot does not cause
death and disease; the less soot, the less sickness.
Coal-;red power plants are a leading source of
Like an endangerment ;nding, the ambient
air-quality standard for soot has no inherent
value. To get actual pollution reductions, the
EPA must create implementing regulations.
Twelve years later, the EPA still has not ;nal-ized the rules. ;e agency recently indicated
that it will be at least six more months until it
does so. ;ousands of megawa;s of new coal
plant capacity is being planned or under permit
review, and some of those plants may get their
;nal air-pollution permits during this delay ;
thus avoiding the forthcoming soot rules forever.
( firstname.lastname@example.org) is a
lawyer who represents
environmental nonpro;ts in Clean Air Act
Unlike greenhouse gas regulations, the EPA’s delay in implementing the soot standard is not part of any larger strategy to
gain environmental protection. It’s just plain old irresponsible
governance that allows dirty energy additional time to have an
unfair competitive advantage over renewable energy by externalizing its pollution costs.
Delay isn’t the only problem from the new administration.
;e EPA recently proposed a supplement to its regulation of
coal-processing facilities. ;ese plants prepare coal for shipment to power companies. ;e Bush administration’s original
proposal required automated monitoring systems to determine
the levels of pollution emi;ed. However, the Obama EPA’s
supplemental proposal dropped this requirement and instead
proposes to allow plant employees to visually estimate the pollution levels. Luckily, the regulation is not ;nal yet, so there is
still hope that the EPA will require objective monitoring to
A strategy that
two or three
the road is not
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