March 7, 2005

Loopholes and exemptions  

Josh Claybourn has a post defending the Clear Skies Act, but he doesn't say anything about New Source Review (NSR). This might be because the bulk of the changes to NSR have happened over the past couple years, so that the provisions in Clear Skies that create loopholes for power plants don't make all that much difference -- the plants can pretty much do what they want already.

Basically under NSR there are strict limits on how much pollution a given plant can produce; these limits, however, only apply to new plants -- plants that were running long before the existence legislation was enacted don't have to comply with the limits. The idea is that older plants are too expensive to upgrade, so they can be exempt until they are retired, which should be relatively soon anyway, since they're old. But many of these old plants are being kept running much longer than their intended lifespans, because the companies running them have found that it's cheaper to maintain the plants even in their sorry, dilapidated shape than it would be to build new plants that comply with the regulations or initiate massive retrofittings.

The Bush administration's rule changes have increased these limits, strengthening incentives to maintain old plants rather than build new ones; the Clear Skies Act virtually eliminates them. Taken together, these moves are a huge backwards step, custom tailored to protect the interests of big industry, but by encouraging the use of old technology. By any standard, it's a policy disaster.

Joshua Claybourn  {March 8, 2005}

Check back at ITA tomorrow for a thorough response.

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