Despite readily available cleanup technology, the countrys 51 biggest, oldest, and dirtiest power plants kill 5,000 to 9,000 people and provoke 80,000 to 120,000 asthma attacks every year. This summer, the Bush administration announced how it was going to tackle the problem: Its letting polluters off the hook.
In August the EPA issued a rule declaring that industries could modernize their old plantseven if doing so increases emissionswithout installing pollution controls, as long as the cost of the project doesnt exceed 20 percent of the replacement cost of the plant. Before the change, the EPAs "new source review" regulations required industry to install state-of-the-art pollution controls whenever upgrades increased emissions significantly.
The electric-power industry lobbied for more than two years for the new rule, which it claims brings "clarity" to the process. That clarity, which affects some 17,000 industrial plants nationwide, could increase air-pollution-related deaths by 19,000 a year.
"This makes it patently clear," New York attorney general Eliot Spitzer told the New York Times, "that the Bush administration has meant all along to repeal the Clean Air Act by administrative fiat." At press time, five states, including New York, had vowed to challenge the new rule in federal appeals court. Reed McManus
Utah governor Mike Leavitt, George Bushs pick to head the EPA, on his philosophical ties to the president. "In three terms in office," the Salt Lake Tribune editorialized, Leavitt "has entwined his political life with some of the states and nations top polluters. [I]f confirmed, Leavitt will preside over an agency that oversees many of the companies that have been his supporters."
You can get there from here. While the Bush administration dithers on global warming, Maine has passed the first state law setting specific targets and timelines for greenhouse-gas reductions. New rules direct the state to develop a "climate-change action plan" by next summer, with the goal of reducing carbon dioxide emissions to below 1990 levels by 2020. The long-term objective is to cut emissions as much as 80 percent.
Maines move is just the latest in a series of increasingly feisty actions by northeastern states. New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island have prepared climate-change mitigation plans, and Vermonts governor issued an executive order to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions from state government buildings.
In June, attorneys general from Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Maine sued the Bush administration over its climate-change policies, charging that the EPA has failed to list carbon dioxide as a pollutant under the Clean Air Act. And in July, a coalition of nine northeastern states agreed to impose a cap on carbon dioxide emissions from power plants and to develop the countrys first regional greenhouse-gas trading program Reed McManus