On Monday, Hopeful shared the news that the Justice Department had settled an eight-year-old case brought by the EPA, eight states (including NJ), and environmental groups seeking to force Ohio-based utility American Electric Power to reduce emissions from its coal-fired power plants. “Now, any settlement by the Bush administration should be examined carefully,” Hopeful warned, “but the initial reporting is good.”
Hopeful’s healthy skepticism no doubt was rooted in BushCo’s history of giving polluters a pass, and of giving a little with one hand while taking a lot more with the other.
Sure enough, a closer examination of the “history-making settlement” hailed by environmentalists reveals that the deal represents “a significant victory for the power industry.” From today’s WaPo:
Buried in paragraph 133 of the consent decree, in which the utility agreed to install $4.6 billion in pollution-control measures at 16 existing plants and pay $75 million in penalties, is a section that assures AEP that the government will not pursue any action stemming from the “modification” of these plants between now and Dec. 31, 2018. The EPA has inserted similar language in other settlements.
As I understand it, the settlement gives AEP the green light to upgrade plants and expand output without being subject to “New Source Review” and higher clean-air standards.
The language of the settlement indicates that the administration has not wavered in its distaste for a Clinton-era policy of using the law to force power plants to upgrade their pollution controls whenever they significantly update or expand a plant. That marks a significant victory for the power industry, which has strenuously opposed the “New Source Review,” saying that it penalizes them for efficiency improvements that
ultimately benefit consumers and the environment.
The lesson is one that Hopeful obviously grasped: Never breathe easy with BushCo in charge.