Muckraker: Grist on Politics

The Bush administrations is advancing plans to weaken air-pollution rules for power plants, despite House Oversight Committee Chair Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) warning the EPA not to last week, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Under “new-source review” rules as they currently stand, power plants making upgrades that would keep their facilities operating more hours each day and increase overall emissions have to install new pollution-control equipment. The Bush administration’s proposal would allow older power plants to upgrade without installing costly new equipment, as long as the hourly emissions rates don’t increase. Duke Energy tried to make a case that the law should be interpreted this way before the Supreme Court last year, and lost.

EPA spokesperson Jonathan Shradar told the Journal that “work continues” on the rulemaking and “no timeframe has been set” for finalizing it, but some sources report that the administration wants to finalize the rule as soon as next week.

On Friday, Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chair Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), chair of the Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety, sent a letter to EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson calling the administration’s proposals “flawed.” The senators strongly cautioned the agency against moving forward on the rule.

“Given the weight of evidence against the rule, if the EPA does promulgate the rule, this Committee may be compelled to undertake extensive investigation and oversight of the agency’s and its officials’ conduct and actions in connection with the promulgation of the rule,” they wrote.

In his letter to Johnson last week, Waxman cautioned that the proposed change would likely wind up in long and costly legal wrangling, noting that of the 27 new rules regarding the Clean Air Act that have come out of the Bush EPA, 18 have been rejected by courts either wholly or in part.