Industry unhappy with Bush’s back-up air-pollution plan

President Bush’s Clear Skies legislation has stalled out in Congress, unable to muster support even from a sufficient number of Republicans. To compensate, Bush is planning to implement some of the bill’s provisions by issuing executive orders — for instance, an order establishing a mercury-emissions trading program. But the electric-utility industry, the very constituent that enviros say the bill is most friendly to, is not happy about the strategy. They say a regulatory rather than legislative approach opens the door to multiple lawsuits, and they complain that the executive orders would establish inconsistent standards from state to state. Jim Connaughton, chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, admits that regulation is a “second-best way to get there.” Neither the industry nor the White House seems to have considered whether, when the people’s representatives in the legislative branch reject a goal, the proper response might be to stop trying to “get there” at all.