Is the Clear Skies Bill, currently under consideration in the US Congress, a step backwards or a step forward in the fight against pollution?
The publication of a still provisional report by the Board on Environmental Studies and Toxicology (BEST) of the American Academy of Sciences (NAS) seems to have revived the controversy. Introduced in 2002 by President Bush, Clear Skies would replace existing legislation that aims to reduce industrial emissions of three major pollutants by 70% by 2018 (mercury, nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide). .
To do this, it plans in particular to establish a system of “rights to pollute”; in practice, a company having done better than the authorized pollution threshold receives credits which it can resell to another company in excess. According to the work of BEST experts, it is "unlikely that Clear Skies will result in stricter individual source emission limits than those achieved with the New Source Review (NSR)" - a set of rules that since 1977 have required power plants to adopt devices for reducing pollutants during operations to update their installations (and not for maintenance, a subjective criterion which has given rise to flexible interpretations). The sentence has reacted to the most critical of the government's environmental policy, who see it as the prelude to a weakening of air quality regulations.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), for its part, supports going in the right direction.
As for the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council (an industrial pressure group), it notes that, while current laws may seem stricter, they often lead to long
legal battles; overall, the credit trading program should therefore prove to be more effective. By comparison, a similar EPA acid rain project worked perfectly a decade ago, but more recently the Southern California smog project has not worked.
LAT 14/01/05 (Bush's 'Clear Skies' plan is a step back, report says)