August 20, 2008 The Pump Handle 0Comment

First, the good news: A federal appeals court has struck down a 2006 EPA rule that prohibited state and local governments from strengthening efforts to monitor pollution from power plants, factories, and refineries.

Under the Clean Air Act, state and local governments are tasked with issuing pollution permits to power plants, factories, and other polluters. They’re supposed to update their monitoring requirements with EPA guidance, but such guidance hasn’t been forthcoming. When EPA proposed requiring that state and local governments improve their monitoring without that guidance, industry groups protested and the agency backed down. Then, it adopted a rule prohibiting these governments from supplementing monitoring efforts.

The federal appeals court didn’t buy this “We’re not going to help you, but we won’t let you do it on your own” approach. The Washington Post’s Del Quentin Wilber explains their decision:

In a 2 to 1 decision, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit found that the Environmental Protection Agency rule violated a provision of the Clean Air Act, which requires adequate monitoring of emissions to ensure compliance with pollution limits.

Judge Thomas B. Griffith wrote for the majority that federal standards often are not sufficient to ensure proper monitoring, so states and local governments must be allowed to fill the gap.

“The question in this case is whether permitting authorities may supplement inadequate monitoring requirements when EPA has taken no action,” Griffith wrote.

Better monitoring will help the public stay informed about what kinds of air pollutants they’re being exposed to, which could in turn pressure facilities to reduce their harmful emissions.

Now for the bad news: The administration wants to elevate F. Chase Hutto III, a senior aide to Dick Cheney who’s described as being “naturally and philosophically opposed to regulation,” to the position of assistant secretary for policy and international affairs at the Department of Energy.

The Washington Post’s Juliet Eilperin catalogues Hutto’s actions: helping to scale back a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration rule to protect North Atlantic right whales; urging NOAA to respond more quickly to energy industry petitions; opposing tighter federal rules for smog-forming ozone; and questioning the need for limiting mercury emissions from power plants. (In the last two cases, EPA strengthened the protections despite objections.)

Today’s energy policy decisions will play a major role in determining how much climate disruption and air pollution we have to deal with in future decades. They’re not decisions that should be made by someone so eager to let industry damage the environment in pursuit of profit.

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