States undercharging big emitters for pollution

In probably the first-ever instance of corporate polluters not being held accountable, a study has found that at least 18 states collected such low fees from big emitters that they couldn’t cover the cost of enforcement programs set out by the Clean Air Act. According to the nonprofit Environmental Integrity Project, pollution-fighting efforts may have been undermined by some $50 million between 2002 and 2005 due to states fining polluters less than the minimum federal standard of nearly $40 per ton of emissions. Louisiana has charged $12.83 per ton since 2003, collecting $9.8 million less than was minimally recommended. But, you know, whatever — it’s not like Louisiana has had a lot of big environmental expenses lately. Most state officials counter that air-quality program funding is just peachy. But by setting emissions fees so low, says EIP’s Eric Schaeffer, “States are shortchanging either the public health or the pockets of taxpayers.” Or both!