Is the administration at odds with itself over pollution regulation?
As the prospects for cap-and-trade dim in the Senate, attention is focusing on the Environmental Protection Agency, which has been slowly positioning itself to regulate carbon as a pollutant in the event that the Congress doesn't act. The EPA, of course, isn't doing this in a vacuum. It seemed to be official government policy. OMB Director Peter Orszag wrote a blog post heralding the endangerment finding that gave the EPA the power to regulate carbon and even wrote another to tamp down on rumors that the OMB disagreed with the move. But now the Wall Street Journal reports that Cass Sunstein, who works in Orszag's shop, is spooking environmental groups:
The office of President Barack Obama's regulatory czar, Cass Sunstein, has held nearly 20 meetings with industry groups since October to discuss the potential impact of proposed EPA rules to treat coal ash and other coal byproducts as hazardous waste, according to White House records. Mr. Sunstein directs the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs within the White House Office of Management and Budget.
Watchdog groups say it is unusual for the OMB to insert itself so prominently, and so early, into the process. In this case, the EPA has yet to publish its proposed new regulations for coal ash, a step that would then open the door to public comment and hearings.
"We think 250 to 350 coal units could be shut down, in an extreme scenario, and drive up the cost of electricity," said Bryan Hannegan, president of an energy think tank. That, of course, is the sort of thing the EPA would want to have happen if it were going to attack carbon emissions. That it's being seen as a major drawback in this case isn't encouraging.
Photo credit: AP Photo/John McConnico.
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