Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Bush Administration Strikes Twice in the Same Place

"EPA Tightens Pollution Standards: But Agency Ignored Advisers' Guidance," Juliet Eilperin, The Washington Post, March 13, 2008.
Nearly a year ago, EPA's Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee reiterated in writing that its members were "unanimous in recommending" that the agency set the standard no higher than 70 parts per billion (ppb) and to consider a limit as low as 60 ppb. EPA's Children's Health Protection Advisory Committee and public health advocates lobbied for the 60-ppb limit because children are more vulnerable to air pollution.

The Environmental Protection Agency yesterday limited the allowable amount of pollution-forming ozone in the air to 75 parts per billion, a level significantly higher than what the agency's scientific advisers had urged for this key component of unhealthy air pollution.

EPA and other scientists have shown that ozone has a direct impact on rates of heart and respiratory disease and resulting premature deaths. The agency calculates that the new standard of 75 ppb would prevent 1,300 to 3,500 premature deaths a year, whereas 65 ppb would avoid 3,000 to 9,200 deaths annually.

A slew of industries had recently urged White House officials to keep the current limit, effectively 84 ppb, to minimize the cost of installing pollution controls. The EPA estimated that it will cost polluting industries $7.6 billion to $8.8 billion a year to meet the 75-ppb standard, but that rule will yield $2 billion to $19 billion in health benefits.

The rule's preamble indicates Bush settled the dispute March 11, saying the president concluded the secondary standard should be set "to be identical to the new primary standard, the approach adopted when ozone standards were last promulgated."
"Government Suspends Lending for Coal Plants: Risks Cited To Economy, Environment," Steven Mufson, The Washington Post, March 13, 2008.
The Agriculture Department has suspended a low-interest lending program for rural electric cooperatives seeking federal assistance to build new coal-fired power plants, the department's Rural Utilities Service said in a letter to a congressional committee.....

The RUS said it does not expect to make any loans during fiscal 2008 or 2009, by which time a new administration and Congress might revise guidelines for rural energy lending and climate change.

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