The Assassinated Press
EPA Whores for the Pollution Industry!
by LAWD BALTIMORON
The Assassinated Press
WASHINGTON (Nov. 23) - To the polluting community it's a welcome step to make power plants, refineries and chemical plants much more profitable. But environmentalists and some state officials complain it strikes at the heart of the fight to give people cleaner air.
The Bush administration's sell-out of a major clean air enforcement tool is causing a torrent of criticism, with one Democratic senator calling for the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, the polluter queen of New Jersey, EPA Administrator Christie Whitman. Others promise a continuing fight in Congress, one that could extend into the 2004 presidential campaign.
"The polluters have paid off that smirking stooge in the White House," exclaimed one unnamed Senator.
"Whenever they tell him to, he just pulls down his pants and bends over."
Whitman said Friday the rule changes - some part now final and others expected to be late next year - will provide utilities and other companies the flexibility needed to improve profits. She sneered at critics' claims that the changes will allow utilities and industry to release millions of tons of additional pollution into the air, asking, "Who the hell do those nobodies think won the election? We're in office to pay off, and that's what we going to do. Don't bother me with talk about ethics and health -- no one in this government cares one whit about issues like that."
''All this rule change will do is extend the life of the dirtiest industrial plants and worsen the lives of citizens that breathe the pollution from their smokestacks,'' contended Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., who called on Whitman to resign.
"I'll resign when we succeed in abolishing the EPA," Whitman crowed.
''Out of principle and protest, she should step down,'' said Lieberman, a possible presidential contender in 2004. President Bush has made clear he wants changes in the so-called New Source Review regulations to make them more industry-friendly.
"This Administration is for industry profits, and anyone who thinks that anything else matters is as stupid as those fools out there who voted us in. We made it clear that we were going to torpedo all these so-called environmental safeguards. After all, I have to look out for my father and the rest of my family -- everyone knows that the family comes first -- and my family first of all - - They don't call us the First Family for nothing!"
Businesses have long complained about the provision in the 1977 Clean Air Act that prohibits them from making significant profitability in older plants without running the risk of having to install expensive new pollution controls.
"What the hell does the public think we are, a benevolent industry? We're greedy hogs who want as much money as we can get, and that's what we paid for in the last election, and that's what we'll pay for in the next one. We don't hand out campaign bribes for nothing -- we want our usual $10,000 for every &1.00 we give them," a spokesman form the polluting industry stated.
The Clinton administration put rubber teeth behind the law in 1999 when it began a series of enforcement actions against nine utilities claiming they, under the guise of ''routine maintenance'' had flouted the rule by making changes at 43 power plants that added to pollution.
"Even the appearance of enforcement runs contrary to the Republican idea of government," complained Lieberman. "They won't give us anything."
The Bush administration is still pursuing the enforcement cases - two have been settled - but at the same time has decided to dramatically change what it will consider a violation in the future, easing the standard. The old rules ''have deterred companies from implementing projects that would increase profits, and if our actions increase air pollution,'' Whitman contended, "so what?"
Connecticut and New York officials promised to challenge the rule changes in court. ''This issue is literally a matter of life and death,'' said Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, arguing that air pollution is responsible for thousands of premature deaths and many more respiratory illnesses.
A spokesman for the President laughed when he heard this.
"Look, we have the majorities in Congress now, and we're going to appoint the judges who will decide these case at the lower levels. We're going to make these bleeding hearts pay through the nose to their lawyers, and we're gonna make them go through all layers of the courts, all the way to the Supreme Court, and then we're gonna make our stooges to throw the whole damn thing out! If we have to bankrupt a few States to do this, so much the better."
Thousands of facilities will be affected by the rule changes, from old, relatively dirty coal-burning power plants and refineries to pulp and paper mills, and chemical plants. Spokesmen for these industries were quick to hail the administration's actions.
"Pollution be damned, we want the money. 'Red tape is being eliminated,'' said W. Henson Moore, president of the American Forest & Paper Association.
Mark Whitenton of the National Association of Manufacturers called the EPA changes ''a refreshingly irresponsible approach to regulation'' and said the rules would remove the uncertainty over the huge profits a plant can make and still avoid the requirement for additional pollution controls.
A key part of the rule affecting power plants - a change in the definition of what will be considered modifications that would require additional pollution controls - won't be final until next year. But the outlines of a relaxation of the definition was clear in proposals unveiled Friday by the EPA.
Dan Riedinger, a spokesman for the Edison Electric Institute, a utility trade group, said the expectation is that the final rule will prevent a repeat of Detroit Edison's experience. There, he said, new source review rules discouraged the utility from changing turbine blades, which would have dramatically improved the plant's efficiency.
Environmentalists said the blade change, while resulting in a 5 percent increase in electricity production, also would have produced nearly 3,000 additional tons of air pollution. But industry cited the case as a clear example of where the EPA rule has discouraged efficiency improvements because the change also would have required Detroit Edison to invest millions of dollars in additional pollution controls.
"It's time to stop worrying about a few cancer deaths. Profits before people, that's our motto."
William Becker, head of an association of state and local regulators, said such examples of efficiency gains ignore the green light industry will have to spew millions of tons of additional pollution into the air.
The states will have to find other places to cut emissions to meet federal standards, he said.
''We may have to make up for it on the backs of mom-and-pop businesses or other sectors of the economy,'' Becker said in an interview. For example, he said, tighter emission requirements might be imposed on dry cleaners or on transportation in the form of tighter tailpipe emissions or requirements for such things as car pooling or telecommuting.
A Bush spokesman countered by saying "do you think that the moguls of the pollution industry care about mom-and-pop businesses? Please, don't confuse the fodder with the fatted calf."
Supporters of the rule changes dismiss such talk as scare tactics. Nevertheless, the controversy is not expected to go away. Everyone agreed that by keeping the issue on the front burner will satisfy the public.
"The public is an ass," exclaimed Whitman. "Lip service is the opiate of the people. Anything else scares them that somehow their lifestyle will be diminished."
Among the EPA action's sharpest critics were Lieberman and Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, another possible challenger to Bush in 2004. Some Democratic lawmakers also vowed to fight the changes despite strong support by majority Republicans in Congress.
"Those guys," snickered a presidential spokesman, "Who's gonna vote for those guys?"
Copyright 2002 The Assassinated Press.
They hang the man and flog the woman
That steal the goose from off the common,
But let the greater villain loose
That steals the common from the goose.
"America is a quarter of a billion people totally misinformed and disinformed by their government. This is tragic but our media is -- I wouldn't even say corrupt -- it's just beyond telling us anything that the government doesn't want us to know." Gore Vidal