Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Well, This is a Surprise!

EPA Distorted Mercury Analysis, GAO Says

You may recall a story in December 2003 about EPA's brilliant new plan to implement a "cap and trade" program for the toxic chemical mercury. This is how I described it at the time:
So, imagine that the building next door to you is being torn down and you learn that it's spewing cancer-causing asbestos dust into the air around your home. You quickly call the Environmental Protection Agency expecting to see the building owners hauled off to jail. But the nice people at EPA say "Sorry, the owner of the building next door has bought some asbestos credits from the building owner across town who is doing an especially good job cleaning up his asbestos. Deal with it."

That's essentially what Bush's EPA is proposing in its new proposal to regulate mercury pollution from coal-fired power plants. A similar system is used for air pollutants like ozone, that are not considered to be "hazardous air pollutants" under the Clean Air Act. Since mercury is a human neurotoxin, the Clinton Administrtion had decided that pollution credits would not be appropriate.
Then the Post reported that some of the text of the proposed mercury rule had been lifted verbatum from the comments of a law firm representing the utility industry that was backing the new rule.

Finally, in today's Washington Post, we hear that:
The Environmental Protection Agency distorted the analysis of its controversial proposal to regulate mercury pollution from power plants, making it appear that the Bush administration's market-based approach was superior to a competing scheme supported by environmentalists, the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office said yesterday.

Rebuking the agency for a lack of "transparency," the report said the EPA had failed to fully document the toxic impact of mercury on brain development, learning, and neurological functioning. The GAO urged that these problems be rectified before the EPA takes final action on the rule.

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy asked the GAO to review the mercury plan.

The analysis follows a critical report by the EPA's inspector general that suggested that agency scientists had been pressured to back the approach preferred by industry.
Regulations being written by and for the regulated industry has become so common in this administration that I don't know why the papers even report on it any more.

But one more thing. If the papers are going to report on it, put paragraphs like this somewhere up front, not at the very end of the article:

Mercury is a toxic metal linked to a broad range of health problems, especially in children and pregnant women. Mercury contamination of fish has led health authorities to warn women of childbearing age to reduce consumption of certain types of fish, and to stop eating fish such as shark and swordfish.