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PostWatch: An irregular correction to the Washington Post

Brought to you by Christopher Rake


Friday, June 14, 2002
2:06 PM

The Washington Post takes a more brazen anti-Administration tack than the New York Times in this Post story about changes to pollution regulations affecting powerplants. The Post lede:

The Bush administration announced yesterday a major relaxation of clean air enforcement rules governing older coal-fired power plants and refineries that would effectively preclude future government legal action in all but the most flagrant cases of pollution.

The lede from the NYT story:

The Environmental Protection Agency called today for changing some air-pollution rules that cover utilities and other plants. The E.P.A. said the changes were dictated by common sense, but environmental groups said they may as well have been dictated by industrial polluters.

UPDATE: The above is by David Stout, datelined and published June 13, which probably means it was the first online edition. Below is a story on the same subject by Katharine Seeley, datelined June 13 but shown online as published June 14, which I'm guessing was today's print edition. Seeley's tones things down even more, though I didn't mind Stout's lede (and story); it reported both sides' views, unlike the Post's, which took a postion and favored it throughout. Anyway, Seeley:

The Bush administration today proposed changing air pollution rules to give utilities more leeway in modernizing power plants without also being required to improve their pollution-control equipment.

The utility industry has been seeking to relax the current rules for years. Such changes could save the industry billions of dollars in upgrades that utility officials said would otherwise hamper their expansion and efficiency. Environmentalists said that if the changes were put into place, they could lead to a worsening of the nation's air quality and weaken a fundamental provision of the Clean Air Act.

NRO last year:

Much has been written about the Bush administration's review of the Environmental Protection Agency's 1999 wave of enforcement actions against over 50 "grandfathered" power plants and refineries. Several major publications have spun it as an administration effort to get some of its corporate-polluter friends off the hook for Clean Air Act violations. But, as with other environmentalist attacks on Bush, these critiques don't stand up to scrutiny. In truth, the administration is wise to reconsider this retroactive rewrite of the Clean Air Act that is likely to do more economic harm than environmental good. For starters, these "grandfathered" facilities are not really grandfathered. Granted, older power plants are exempted from the Clean Air Act's New Source Review (NSR) program, which only applies to new or substantially modified facilities. However, several other Clean Air Act provisions, including those dealing with acid rain and smog, apply to both old and new facilities....

Despite claims to the contrary, air pollution is not worsening because of old coal-fired power plants. In fact, reductions in industrial emissions have contributed to the significant air quality improvements over the past three decades. Surprisingly, many of the utilities and refineries now targeted for alleged violations were reducing their emissions over the same period in which they are now accused of breaking the law. For example, the Tennessee Valley Authority reports 65 percent reductions in sulfur dioxide emissions since the 1970s, and a 40 percent decline in smog-forming nitrogen oxides emissions since the mid-1990s.

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