Bush admin plans to relax air-pollution regulations on ethanol refineries

President Bush has been hyping the environmental benefits of ethanol in recent months, even as his administration has been preparing to relax air-pollution regulations for new ethanol refineries. The U.S. EPA plans to increase the amount of toxic pollution refineries can emit — from 100 tons a year to 250 tons — before they are required to undergo an intensive permitting process under the Clean Air Act and dramatically reduce their emissions by installing pollution controls; most of the more than 40 new ethanol plants expected to be built in the next year aim to emit just a few tons less than 250. The industry contends that relaxed rules are necessary to sustain the ethanol boom; critics point out that the boom has been booming even with current environmental regulations in place. Less than four years ago, the Bush administration promised to crack down on ethanol-plant pollution, after discovering that several refineries in the Midwest were emitting cancer-causing toxins at levels far greater than they were reporting. So much for that. The new rule needs only to be published in the Federal Register to go into effect.