Today Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) again cancelled a scheduled vote on the Bush administration’s Corporate Air Pollution Plan (S. 131). This is the third time the vote has been postponed. As with previous cancellations, the delay fuels speculation that the bill’s proponents do not have the necessary votes to push the measure through Committee, frustrating their efforts to pass this anti-public health package.
“Today’s cancelled vote indicates that at least half of the Committee members understand that Americans want healthy air, not corporate welfare,” said Earthjustice’s Maria Weidner. “We thank those Senators who continue to oppose the rollbacks in S. 131 for continuing to stand up for the public’s right to breathe healthy air.”
Today’s move comes two weeks after an abortive attempt to mark up this legislation was unexpectedly called off when the Committee’s majority leadership concluded that they could not assemble enough votes to pass the bill out of Committee. Committee members have reportedly spent the intervening weeks in ongoing negotiations.
In the interim, the Environmental Protection Agency is scheduled to release on March 15th its Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR), along with a rulemaking on mercury and other toxic pollution from power plants that is already long overdue.
“As discussions continue, we urge Senators on the Committee to demand that EPA not delay implementation of the Clean Air Act,” said James Cox, Counsel for Earthjustice. “EPA must not delay further in issuing strong rules to control interstate air pollution and toxic power plant pollution, including mercury. Cleaner air must not be delayed due to negotiations over ill-advised legislation that may never pass.”
In the increasingly likely event that the bill does not have the votes to clear Committee, there is still the possibility that the majority leadership could attempt to bypass the Committee procedurally to bring the bill to the floor for a vote.
Some of the most egregious ways the Corporate Air Pollution Plan would undercut current Clean Air Act protections include attempts to:
- Allow power plants to release twice as much soot-forming sulfur dioxide, and more than 1.5 times as much smog-forming nitrogen oxides than the Clean Air Act allows, for nearly a decade longer;
- Allow power plants and other facilities to emit nearly seven times as much toxic mercury for a decade longer;
- Repeal provisions requiring major industrial sources of air pollution to install state-of-the-art pollution control technologies;
- Impede states’ efforts to protect their citizens from pollution originating in upwind states;
- Allow certain new power plants and other facilities to disregard their adverse impacts on air quality in national parks or wilderness areas;
- Allow years of delay in deadlines for meeting clean air health standards and weaken requirements for anti-smog measures in cities with polluted air.