Why, oh why?
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By cynsmith - Last updated: Thursday, August 28, 2003 - Save & Share - 9 Comments

Why is the Bush Administration allowing industrial plants to upgrade some equipment without requiring them to upgrade their pollution control equipment at the same time? This is exactly the sort of thing that soccer-mom swing voters care about (please please please).

Posted in Politics • • Top Of Page

9 Responses to “Why, oh why?”

Comment from etrigan
Time August 28, 2003 at 9:41 am

I will borrow a friend’s phrase and simply say “environmental holocaust”.

Comment from jank
Time August 28, 2003 at 9:55 am

This is also the sort of issue which is completely distorted in the press. Most of the repairs allow existing plants to put out more power at the same amount of pollution. The emissions per Kilowatt-Hour go down in most of these cases (this is where soccer mom’s eyes glaze over). Plus, it gives the utilities an opportunity to improve safety on equipment installed before OSHA, etc.

Some of the ‘improvements’ that have been stopped by the ‘New Source Review’ process which was revised yesterday are things like replacing worn turbine blades in the steam plants with blades made from more modern and durable materials, and with designs that more efficiently convert steam to motion. Likewise, condensers, where the steam is turned back to water to be recycled into more steam, could not be upgraded to designs made in the 20th century instead of the 19th.

No, it’s not as immediately effective as scrapping old plants and building new ones, but it does increase the amount and reliability of power generated at the same emissions rates. The industrial plants and utilities had already shown that they were content to continue to operate plants in poor repair.

Comment from cynsmith
Time August 28, 2003 at 9:56 am

I don’t know about that – these are plants that are already polluting. It’s just that now there’s no hope of them doing anything to REDUCE thier emissions. They are no longer required to do anything to reduce emissions when they upgrade equipment. This is depressing. It’s as if the Bushies are saying “things are fine. no one’s bitching too much anymore about air quality, so it’s no longer necessary to even pay lip service to improving the situation. enough with the progress.”

Comment from cynsmith
Time August 28, 2003 at 10:00 am

Cross-post. I understand that some of the equipment these plants wish to install would make them more efficient, ie, produce more energy with less fuels, at the same emission levels. But from what I can tell, there is nothing in the regulation that says that the emissions have to stay the same – they could increase. And the plant, with the administration’s blessing, will not be required to do anything about it.

Comment from Rick
Time August 28, 2003 at 11:22 am

Robert Reich actually discussed this yesterday on Marketplace:

It was relatively fair & balanced… if you listen to it instead of reading the recap.

Comment from jank
Time August 28, 2003 at 11:25 am

AFAIK, the permitting process for most industrial plants includes firm caps on the emissions that the plant is licensed to produce. IE – you can emit 300 tons of sulphur dioxide per day. What the old version of the new source review did was to lower the licensed limits for practically any work done on the plants.

There’s more at the EPA’s website, including the following:

Under the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990, an Acid Rain control program was established that capped emissions of SO2 from power plants. The program went into effect in 1995, and SO2 emissions from these sources have already been reduced more than 40 percent from 1980 levels in a program widely acknowledged as both efficient and effective.

In general, it appears to me that the EPA is trying to streamline regulation. Here’s why I think this is in almost every case a good idea: In my ideal world, the entire role of the EPA would be to 1) set limits on pollution, and 2) write tickets when limits were exceeded. No mucking about in approving plant design, which tends to limit innovations in reducing emissions. Efficiencies would drive down the pollution per unit created. How industry and individuals met the limits would be completely out of the EPA’s control, and setting the limits would have to be a very public and predictable process. This is a positive step in that direction.

Comment from jank
Time August 28, 2003 at 11:28 am

I missed Bob Reich yesterday, but he’s been impressing me of late. After his dubious stint in the Clinton Cabinet, this is more proof to me that politics is possibly the most corrupting influence in the world. Forget drugs, booze, or sex – the biggest danger to morality is power and influence.

Comment from BT
Time August 28, 2003 at 1:23 pm

The problem with this latest action is that it effectively raises emissions caps at virtually all older facilities. The reason is pretty simple. There are currently facility-wide emission caps at most plants. For the older plants, however, the caps are MUCH higher than actual emissions. Why? Four reasons.

(i) The facility-wide caps were generally grandfathered in;

(ii) Required equipment upgrades drastically lowered emissions at older facilities;

(iii) Providers cannot increase output (and therefore emissions) without upgrading facilities; and

(iv) Providers cannot upgrade facilities without complying with new source review, which leads to lower emissions facility-wide.

What the Bush administration proposes is to eliminate the fourth plank, which effectively will allow older power plants to pollute at levels not seen in 30 years. A balanced way to meet Jank’s goals might have been to eliminate new-source review and simultaneously lower facilite-wide emissions caps. That didn’t happen, so emissions from facilities outside of Cali will likely get worse.

Sorry for the long post.

Comment from cynsmith
Time August 28, 2003 at 2:20 pm

Although Cali and New York are already talking about suing over these new regulations. I believe that the Cali AG used the term “backsliding” to describe the regs.

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