Substantial changes to Clean Air Act slipped into energy bill

Buried deep in the energy bill, filed under “Miscellaneous,” is a tiny bit of text that could affect the Clean Air Act in a big way. The provision, authored by Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, would allow “downwind” states like New York and other Northeastern states to postpone fulfillment of clean-air standards until offending “upwinders” clean up their act. If the energy bill becomes law, this provision would represent one of the most significant changes to the Clean Air Act in 15 years, and opponents say it could also undermine the Clean Air Interstate Rule, which sets power-plant emission limits for Eastern states. The U.S. EPA has not yet taken a position on the provision, but agency spokesperson John Millett showed a talent for pithy understatement when he said, “Some people think it’s a good idea. Most don’t.”