In just its first month, the Obama administration is moving to reverse Bush administration Clean Air Act policies. One action deals with a rule governing mercury emissions, an important piece of the Bush team’s program. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit had struck down the mercury rule and the Bush administration appealed the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court. But in early February, new Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson announced that EPA would not pursue the Bush administration appeal and said the agency instead would draft a new mercury regulation. The high court followed up on Feb. 23, announcing that it would not hear the Bush appeal.
William Becker, the National Association of Clean Air Agencies’ executive director, says the Supreme Court’s action “puts a final dagger into EPA’s illegal mercury rule that would have eviscerated our nation’s program to control mercury emissions from powerplants.”
On Feb. 17, EPA announced it will reconsider a Bush policy on whether the Clean Air Act applies to carbon-dioxide emissions. Jackson said EPA will seek public comment on a memorandum issued by former administrator Stephen Johnson in the last days of the Bush presidency. Johnson’s memo concluded that EPA did not need to establish best available control technology emission limits for carbon dioxide from new coal-fired plants and other sources of pollution. The Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council and other environmental groups have challenged Johnson’s memo in federal appellate court.
Also, on Feb. 9, EPA said it will reconsider a Bush administration rule allowing powerplants, factories and industrial facilities to bundle separate emission-control upgrades into single projects. Environmentalists claim the regulation, published on Jan. 15, would result in increased pollution. EPA says it will delay the effective date of the “aggregate” rule until May 15 to respond to environmental groups’ concerns.