Mudcat Café message #1428808 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #62901   Message #1428808
Posted By: Amos
07-Mar-05 - 09:55 AM
Thread Name: BS: Popular Views of the Bush Administration
Subject: RE: BS: Popular Views of the Bush Administration
Clear Skies, R.I.P.

Published: March 7, 2005

Barring a cave-in by Democrats who have so far kept the bill bottled up in committee, President Bush's Clear Skies initiative appears dead for this session of Congress. This is no great loss to the nation. Clear Skies is a bad bill, which in the name of streamlining current law would offer considerably more relief to the industries that pollute the air than to the citizens who breathe it.

Because Clear Skies was one of Mr. Bush's signature initiatives, and the first proposed overhaul of the Clean Air Act since his father's landmark reforms of 1990, it is worth reflecting on its troubles. Clear Skies originally came attractively dressed as a grand bargain under which a market-based system of pollution control would replace the cumbersome regulatory mechanisms in existing law - resulting in less litigation, more regulatory certainty for industry and cleaner air for everybody.

The bargain quickly collapsed when the administration, prodded by Vice President Dick Cheney, began dismantling current law before even offering a Clear Skies bill - a boneheaded move that cast suspicion on the administration's motives, infuriated Democrats and made future bipartisan cooperation almost impossible.

When Clear Skies finally did appear in 2002, the bargain began looking even worse. It would have been one thing to drop the old bureaucratic regulations in exchange for meaningful reductions in the major pollutants and a disciplined, aggressive timetable for achieving them. Indeed, the Environmental Protection Agency's professional staff had a perfectly respectable bill ready to roll in the fall of 2001. But after lobbying by industry and the White House, and subsequent dilutions by Senate Republicans, what ultimately emerged was a pallid program that had no chance of meeting the public health standards for smog and soot that the administration professes to support.

Meanwhile, on the back end, nearly every useful lever in current law would disappear, including several provisions that Northeastern states like New York and New Jersey have been using to great effect to reduce windblown pollution from Midwestern power plants. The bill's failure to address the issue of global warming did not improve its legislative chances among Democrats. But it was the loss of the old-fashioned controls on smog and soot-forming gases that turned a large and bipartisan majority of state and local officials (George Pataki and Arnold Schwarzenegger among them) against Clear Skies, once they realized how little the administration was offering them in exchange.