U.S. EPA Proposes New Market-Based Air Quality Regulations

Having failed thus far to push his “Clear Skies” initiative through Congress, President Bush is now trying to institute his air-pollution plan through regulatory channels. Yesterday, the Bush administration proposed new rules that would establish industry-wide emissions limits for sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, and mercury. Under the market-based plan, every power plant would be granted a permit to emit a fixed amount of pollution; those that emitted less than that amount could sell credits to dirtier plants, as long as overall, industry-wide emissions targets were met. As part of the plan, the U.S. EPA identified 534 counties nationwide that suffer from excessive air pollution and would be required to meet new air-quality standards. Environmentalists support some aspects of the plan, but sharply oppose its mercury regulations, which are far laxer than regulations that had previously been in the works.