Bush’s Mercury Plan Was Rejected by Clinton EPA as Too Weak

The Bush administration’s new plan for regulating mercury emissions from power plants is virtually the same as one that the Clinton administration considered and dismissed because it appeared to violate the federal Clean Air Act, former U.S. EPA officials said yesterday. The Bush proposal caused an uproar among environmentalists and public-health advocates when it was leaked to the press last week. Yesterday, the administration formally introduced the plan, which would regulate mercury from power plants for the first time and mandate a nearly 70 percent drop in mercury emissions by 2018. The problem, enviros say, is that the proposal would let many plants wait up to 15 years before installing technology specifically designed to reduce mercury pollution — far too long, they argue, considering that mercury is a dangerous neurotoxin. More troubling, perhaps, is that the plan wouldn’t put any restrictions on individual power plants, but would let companies buy and sell the rights to emit mercury. That would be bad news for people living near a power plant that buys emissions credits instead of cleaning up its act.