Posted by Red Rider from dialup-22.214.171.124.Dial1.LosAngeles1.Level3.net (126.96.36.199) on Sunday, August 24, 2003 at 1:25PM :
Sunday, Aug 24, 2003,Page 1
The George W. Bush administration plans to open a huge loophole in US air pollution laws, allowing an estimated 17,000 outdated power stations and factories to increase their carbon emissions with impunity.
Critics of draft regulations due to be unveiled by the US environmental protection agency next week say they amount to a death knell for the Clean Air Act, the centerpiece of US regulation.
The rules could represent the biggest defeat for American environmentalists since the Bush administration abandoned the Kyoto Treaty on global warming two years ago. But the energy industry welcomed them, saying they were essential for maintaining coal-fired power stations.
The regulations are being challenged by 13 states including New York. If adopted, they would represent a multi-million dollar victory for energy corporations, most of whom are significant Republican contributors, and who were consulted in the drafting of the administration's energy plan by vice-president Dick Cheney in 2001.
The US accounts for a quarter of the world's carbon emissions, 10 percent more than all of western Europe combined. Environmentalists fear that, by relaxing its controls even further, America could undermine attempts to persuade other countries to stick to the targets laid out by Kyoto.
Under the current rules set in 1977, industrial sites built before the Clean Air Act are exempt from its controls until they are upgraded in any way, beyond "routine maintenance", that increases emissions. At that point companies have to install filters and other controls or face penalties.
Under the draft rules, corporations can invest in old plant up to 20 percent of its total value at a time -- without having to spend money on anti-pollution equipment. The figure of 20 percent is highly controversial, and in some places in the document has been replaced by an "X". Elsewhere the figure has been left, apparently as an oversight.
The rules allow a firm to make successive upgrades.
"The companies could completely rebuild their plants by gaming a gimmick that is designed to be gamed," said John Walke, of the Natural Resources Defense Council, a pressure group which leaked the draft. "This is a massive giveaway," Walke said. "The Bush administration, using an arbitrary, Enron-like accounting gimmick, is authorizing massive pollution increases to benefit Bush campaign contributors."
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