Muckraker: Grist on Politics

House Oversight Committee Chair Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) issued a warning [PDF] on Tuesday to EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson, apparently trying to head off at the pass any further attempts to weaken the Clean Air Act.

There’s talk of yet another new rule soon to come from the Bush administration that would undermine the new-source review program for power plants, which requires them to upgrade their pollution-control systems when they make major modifications to facilities. Word on the environmental street is that the EPA is about to suggest a new reading of the Clean Air Act similar to the one that Duke Energy tried to use in the case that went to the Supreme Court last year. The argument is that power plants should not have to pay for pollution-reduction equipment when they upgrade their plants if the upgrades don’t increase their hourly emissions. Duke lost that case, but apparently that won’t stop the Bush administration from trying to push through its change.

In his Tuesday letter, Waxman cites previous letters he’s written to Johnson warning him about problematic pollution rules that were eventually overturned by the courts (see all the letters here), and notes that of 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. Waxman writes:

I understand that the Administration is contemplating at least one more rule with severe legal deficiencies. This rule, which represents the Administration’s third attempt to weaken pollution control requirements for new and modified power plants, would almost certainly be overturned in court. Routinely making decisions that do not stand up to judicial scrutiny is a terrible waste of taxpayer dollars and government resources. Such losses also produce substantial delays in human health and environmental protection, undermine EPA’s credibility with the courts, and impose confusion and costs on states and regulated entities. For these reasons, I urge you not to issue this rule and thus avoid further exacerbating the serious harms this administration has caused through its reckless disregard of legal constraints on its rulemaking authority.

More to come if/when the Bush administration puts out this rumored new rule.