Senators challenge Bush rewrite of mercury-emissions rule

A cross-party coalition of senators aims to use an obscure legislative tactic in an attempt to block implementation of the Bush administration’s proposed regulation on power-plant mercury emissions. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Jim Jeffords (I-Vt.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) say the Bush rule rewrite endangers public health even as it caters to the utility industry. It would remove power plants from stricter oversight and a tight timeline for cutting mercury emissions under the Clean Air Act, giving them instead a reduced target and several more years to meet it. It would also let dirtier plants buy emission allowances from cleaner plants, which critics say would imperil those who live near high-polluting facilities, especially young children and pregnant women. The senators’ maneuver has virtually no chance of success, as it would require the approval of the House, Senate, and president, but a coalition of 14 states that is challenging the rule in court might have more luck.