In its final days, the Bush Administration tried to make sure that federal air pollution regulations wouldn’t be used to control the gases blamed for global warming. In a memorandum, outgoing Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Stephen Johnson set an agency-wide policy prohibiting controls on carbon dioxide emissions from being included in air pollution permits for coal-fired power plants and other facilities. That decision gave the agency a basis for issuing permits that increase global warming pollution until the incoming Obama Administration can change it. Unfortunately, this was a move that will require a long rulemaking process to change things. “The current concerns over global climate change should not drive EPA into adopting an unworkable policy of requiring emissions controls,” Johnson wrote. While he acknowledged public interest in the issue, he wrote further that “administrative agencies are authorized to issue interpretations of this nature that clarify their regulations without completing a public comment process.”
The Bush White House had repeatedly said that the Clean Air Act should not be used to regulate carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases, even though an April 2007 Supreme Court decision found that the EPA could legally do so. To their credit, environmentalists never stopped trying to protect the public interest. Johnson’s memo was said to be an attempt to clarify the agency’s position after an appeals board in November rejected a federal permit for a Utah power plant putting the fate of scores of coal-burning power plants and other industrial facilities in limbo.
In that case, the board said the EPA did not make a strong enough case for not requiring controls on carbon dioxide, the leading pollutant linked to global warming. Environmentalists had challenged the permit, pointing out that the law makes it clear that greenhouse gas emissions can be controlled. Environmentalists say that the EPA’s memo would allow power plants that increase greenhouse gas emissions to be approved.
Source: Associated Press
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