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Bush’s Last-Minute Environmental Deregulations « The Washington Independent

The Clean Air Act is one of the signature laws that gives regulatory authority to the Environmental Protection Agency.

But the Bush administration, especially under EPA head Stephen Johnson, has weakened ozone standards and ignored a U.S. Supreme Court order to use the law to regulate greenhouse gases that cause global warming. Even though Johnson and the EPA have been pilloried for their actions, it appears the administration is using its last two months to further weaken air pollution controls.

The Wall Street Journal reports today that EPA will loosen pollution curbs on power plants:

Under current policy, power plants that make upgrades to operate longer and increase emissions must install pollution-control equipment.

The proposed rules, which seek to make it easier for older power plants to extend their life span and upgrade without installing costly new equipment, are tired to an hourly rate of emissions. As long as a power plant’s hourly emissions stay at or below the plant’s historical maximum, the plant would be treated as if it were running more cleanly, even if its total annual emissions increased as plant operators stepped up operations.

Some in Congress are incensed, especially Barbara Boxer, (D-Calif.), chair of the Senate environment committee, and Henry Waxman, (D-Calif.), chair of the House oversight committee.

Boxer and other Democrats on her committee have already called for Johnson to step down. She promises an investigation of any air-pollution rule changes made in the next two months.

Waxman fired off a caustic letter to Johnson last week that itemized the 18 air-pollution decisions the EPA has made that a federal court subsequently overturned.

The message from Waxman and Boxer is clear: Johnson has lost credibility, and his last-minute decisions won’t survive congressional scrutiny or the courts.

The administration apparently has some confidence that its decisions will be upheld. That — or it just wants to lock in its anti-regulatory legacy for posterity.

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