Another court rebuffs the Bush administration
A federal appeals court said Friday the Bush administration ignored the law when it imposed less stringent requirements on power plants to reduce mercury pollution, which scientists fear could cause neurological problems in 60,000 newborns a year.
A three-judge panel unanimously struck down a mercury-control plan imposed by the Environmental Protection Agency three years ago. It established an emissions trading process in which some plants could avoid installing the best mercury control technology available by buying pollution credits.
Environmentalist and health experts argued that such a cap-and-trading mechanism would create "hot spots" of mercury contamination near some power plants. Seventeen states as well as environmental and health groups joined in a suit to block the regulation, saying it did not adequately protect public health.
It's not the first time the administration has been taken to task for ignoring the Congress when it comes to protecting the public health, and when added to the recent statements by the Attorney General, demonstrates a very clear pattern of the application of what the administration claims are its virtually unlimited powers under the theory of the "unitary executive."
The court decision was the latest in a string of judicial rebukes of the Bush administration's environmental policies. The Supreme Court last year took the administration to task for not regulating greenhouse gases. Courts have also rejected administration attempts to overhaul federal forest policies and streamline fuel economy standards for small trucks.
In this case, the Clinton EPA had instructed operators of coal power plants to install best available technology to remove up to 90% of mercury from power plant emissions. The Bush EPA replaced that instruction with the one just overturned. Here's athe kicker. Even though the Bush rule wouldn't have taken effect for another 10 years or so, an industry spokesperson is complaining that now, power plant operators are rudderless.
Dan Riedinger, a spokesman for the Edison Electric Institute, an association of power companies, called the court decision "a major setback ... to establish clear mercury regulations for coal-burning power plants."
"Now EPA has to go back to the drawing board, pushing mercury regulations far off into the future," said Riedinger.
I don't get it. Seems to me we had a perfectly good regulation eight friggin' years ago. If the current ruling has been held to be in violation of the law as written by the Congress of the United States, wouldn't the previously existing regulation come into play? What's the need to go back to the drawing board? It's not like there's anything controversial about mercury's status as a neurotoxin.
Some 450 existing coal and oil burning power plants emit 48 tons of mercury into the air each year. Yet only 1/70th of a teaspoon of mercury is needed to contaminate a 25 acre lake to the point where fish are unsafe to eat.
More than 40 states have warned their residents to avoid consuming various fish species due to mercury contamination, and more than half of those mercury advisories apply to all water bodies in the state.
But there you go, nothing is more important to these guys than the exercise of power. Not your kid's health, not your job, not your right to be "secure in [your] persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures."
Here's some more reading on this case.