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EPA Analysis Called Faulty

Congressional researchers say agency's methods skewed toward Bush emission plan

by Cheryl Hogue
December 12, 2005 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 83, Issue 50

Credit: Photodisc
Credit: Photodisc


EPAs recent analysis of legislation to cut utilities air pollution is improperly tilted in favor of President George W. Bushs Clear Skies initiative, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service (CRS).

CRS limits direct distribution of its reports to lawmakers, but its Nov. 23 report examining the air pollution bills was distributed on Dec. 2 by Frank ODonnell, executive director of Clean Air Watch.

Three competing legislative plans in the Senate would trim sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, and mercury emissions from utility smokestacks. Bushs Clear Skies involves the smallest reductions. Legislation sponsored by Sen. Thomas R. Carper (D-Del.) would make deeper cuts than the Bush plan, while a bill by Sen. James M. Jeffords (I-Vt.) proposes the most stringent emission controls. The Carper and Jeffords bills also would curb carbon dioxide releases.

EPAs analysis was faulty for a number of reasons, CRS says. One is that the agency assumed that only congressional passage of legislation would cut utility emissions, the report says. This ignores the effects of two rules EPA issued earlier this year—one to reduce sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, the other to control mercury from power plants (C&EN, March 21, page 11). Together, the EPA rules offer emission reductions similar to the Clear Skies plan.

The CRS report took the two EPA rules into account and found that Clear Skies would cost little to implement and would offer small benefits. The Jeffords and Carper bills, however, set more stringent standards than the promulgated rules, the CRS report says.

It finds that the benefits of each of those bills far outweigh the additional costs they would impose.

CRS also criticizes EPA for overestimating how much it would cost to control mercury emissions. In addition, the agency did not adequately take into account the effect of natural gas price volatility on the cost of cutting emissions, CRS says.



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