Another Day, Another White House Retreat on Clean Air

by Downwinders on July 23, 2012

In an election year, apparently no environmental initiative is safe from the Obama White House.

You may have missed this because it was one of those late Friday government announcments that officials like to use to bury bad news, but the EPA is going to consider softening those much-ballyhooed coal plant Mercury emissions rules that it fought so hard to get only last year. And because "consider" in this case means "we're going to do it," you can add these rules to the growing list of those clean air efforts in this supposedly environmentally-friendly administration that have bitten the dust because of political interfernce.

One of the reasons this rule is being rewritten is to satisfy the less-than-state-of-the-art White Stallion coal and pet coke-fired power plant being proposed for Matgorda Bay, whose owners have campaigned against the new rules since Day One. They say the rules are too strict and can't be met, despite being based on the track record of top performers in the utility industry. You will be unsurprised to learn that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is a co-facilitator in that campaign, up to the point of being so enthusiastic in its unquestioned support that it had to be ordered by a state judge to reconsider the first air permit it gave the plant because of the lack of any public participation. 

White Stallion is going to be built less than 20 miles from the boundary of the eight-county Houston "non-attainment area" for ozone, or smog. Regulations on new sources of industrail pollution are tighter inside such areas than outside. That's pretty much all you need to know about the owner's commitment to using best technology. It's the same problem DFW used to face with the Midlothian cement plants and Ellis County until Donwiwnders petitioned, and EPA agreed, to include them in the North Texas non-attainment area.

Anything that makes it harder for Houston to meet clean air standards, also makes it harder for DFW to do the same. But this rollback is also a shame because of this administration's gap between promise and performance when it comes to critical upgrades in national polluiton standards – ozone, particulate matter, cement kilns and now coal plants. When push comes to shove, there seemingly isn't any polluter this White House won't do a favor for between now and November.

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