“It has become fashionable for opponents to disagree on even simple facts, but there shouldn’t be room for debate on the deadline for a new air pollution rule,” writes Mitchell Schnurman of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
That’s what emerged last week during a congressional hearing in Washington, when a Jan. 1 due date suddenly became March 2013. The shift is a bad sign for the Environmental Protection Agency, which is already backpedaling on its tough stance in Texas.
If the EPA is playing games with the deadline, what about its more important assertions: that the new emission standards won’t lead to shuttered plants in Texas, laid-off workers and rolling blackouts?
Much of the outrage over the so-called cross-border air pollution rule centers on the timing. Texas learned that it would be included in the rule in July, with the lower emissions to take effect in January.
That deadline comes so soon that several power companies say they can’t adjust in time, and the state’s power grid operator warned that electric reliability would be compromised. Luminant, the state’s largest generator, said it will close two coal plants and three lignite mines, and eliminate 500 jobs, rather than risk big fines and penalties for exceeding the pollution limits.
But EPA Assistant Administrator Gina McCarthy insisted that closures were not necessary. Addressing a House panel in Washington last week, she said the state has enough options and enough equipment to meet the lower pollution limits, if all devices were maximized all the time. She also said the compliance deadline is March 2013, not Jan. 1.
The 2013 date made big headlines, with one environmentalist saying it showed that Luminant was blowing smoke about closing plants. But that’s just the date that the emissions are tallied and accounted for with the government — not when the lower standards take effect.
As an analogy, consider how income taxes are paid. They’re withheld throughout the year, with the bill calculated and paid in full the following April. In the same way, Luminant must cut its sulfur dioxide emissions by almost two-thirds, beginning in January, but the bill comes duein 2013… [Emphasis added]