In April, Sen. Thomas Carper (D-Del.) threatened to block the nomination of Stephen Johnson as EPA chief until the agency agreed to compare three plans to cut power-plant pollution: his own, a bill from James M. Jeffords (I-Vt.), and Bush’s "Clear Skies" legislation. Clear Skies contained weaker pollution targets and longer timelines for compliance.

So the EPA did the analysis and reported that — whaddya know! — the other plans cost too darn much and Clear Skies is the best bang for the buck.

Now the Congressional Research Service has issued a report confirming what was widely suspected: The EPA was full of shit.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s Oct. 27 analysis of its plan — along with those of Sens. Thomas R. Carper (D-Del.) and James M. Jeffords (I-Vt.) — exaggerated the costs and underestimated the benefits of imposing more stringent pollution curbs, the independent, nonpartisan congressional researchers wrote in a Nov. 23 report. …

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The administration’s "Clear Skies" legislation aims to achieve a 70 percent cut in emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide after 2018, while Carper’s and Jeffords’s bills demand steeper and faster cuts and would also reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, which are linked to global warming. The Bush plan would also cut emissions of neurotoxic mercury by 70 percent, while Jeffords’s bill reduces them by 90 percent.

"Although it represents a step toward understanding the impacts of legislative options, EPA’s analysis is not as useful as one could hope," the Research Service report said. "The result is an analysis that some will argue is no longer sufficiently up-to-date to contribute substantially to congressional debate."

In circumspect bureaucratese, "not as useful as one could hope" pretty much translates to "full of shit."

Now, recall:

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Before it released its weak new mercury regulations, the Bush EPA compared two possible plans and grossly biased its analysis toward its own — so said the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office.

It also ignored its own research, downplaying the benefits and exaggerating the costs of mercury regulation.

The EPA’s inspector general also found that the Bush mercury rule is heavily biased toward industry.

The same inspector general found that the Bush administration has crippled clean-air enforcement and weakened the new-source review provision of the Clean Air Act.

Earlier this year, the National Academy of Sciences did a study of Clear Skies and reported back that it would actually weaken clean-air laws already on the books.

I don’t want to be a crazed conspiracy theorist here, but isn’t it a little odd that every independent, nonpartisan assessment concludes that the Bush administration’s air-pollution plans are unconscionably weak — and that it keeps lying about them?