When the history of the Bush administration environmental record is written, there will be plenty of dark chapters. With the exception of its inaction on climate change, however, none will be so dark as its treatment of mercury.

We know that its handmaidens in Congress have distorted the science on mercury emissions. But there has also been a steady trickle of stories about its attempts to bias the policy-making process in favor of industry. In short: the Bushies favor a weak cap-and-trade program over the more traditional “maximum achievable control technology” approach. In endeavoring to justify this preference — that is, to give it some justification other than “industry contributors favor it” — they have done economic assessments that both the GAO and the EPA’s own inspector general have found wanting.

Chris Mooney sums up the sordid episode. Go read it.

Let’s be clear about what’s happening. Later this week the Bush administration will announce a new cap-and-trade program to limit mercury emissions. That program will be based on economic analyses that have been publicly exposed as fraudulent. Power plants will save some money in the short-term; the economy as a whole will lose money in the long-term.

But more to the point: children will suffer unnecessarily.

So tell me — I don’t want to be “alarmist” — what is the “reasonable” thing to say about this?