Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Opposite of 'Clear Skies'

February 16, 2005

The proposed Clear Skies Act that faces a Senate committee vote today differs from President Bush's original initiative, which would have eroded current clean-air regulations.

The new version is worse.

The president's proposal two years ago never made it to a committee vote. Emboldened by Republican gains in the November election, though, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) introduced a new version that lets even more polluters off the hook.

As of Tuesday, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works appeared evenly split on Inhofe's bill. A deadlock would keep the bill from going to the Senate floor unless GOP leaders pulled some rare maneuvers, which isn't expected. The chief question is whether Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-R.I.), who has favored a more stringent approach to pollution control, will toe the party line to give the bill the votes it needs.

We hope he doesn't. The proposed act has all the flaws of its ancestor, failing to control carbon dioxide emissions, allowing increases in several other types of pollution for years and, according to an Environmental Protection Agency analysis, putting off meaningful reductions in various pollutants for two decades. In some cases, even those reductions are weaker than is reasonable and economically feasible. A National Academy of Sciences report says the proposal would do a worse job of reducing pollution than the existing Clean Air Act does.

The old version of Clear Skies allowed power plants to trade pollution credits with each other, with polluters paying a heavy economic price. The Inhofe measure would extend that trading system to a host of other facilities, including incinerators, chemical plants and refineries, but would let them choose whether to opt in or not. Thus, polluters would get to pick whichever regulatory scheme was the weakest -- an oil refinery facing state regulation more restrictive than Clear Skies could go for the federal program instead. In the end, the power plant trading system probably would degenerate into chaos and confusion.

Inhofe made some minor changes to his bill Tuesday in an effort to win the crucial extra vote. That's not the way to go about it. There's room for real, from-the-ground-up negotiation on the Clear Skies program. Emissions-trading programs have reduced sulfur dioxide and could succeed in lowering other industrial emissions. But they work only if they're structured properly and represent an improvement over existing regulations. The new version of Clear Skies fails on both counts.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|