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Erring on air

| Sourced From The Free Lance-Star |

IF THE BUSH administration cared about the air as much as it cares about the oceans, perhaps the EPA wouldn’t have set aside a rule that requires new power plants to limit carbon-dioxide emissions.

Relaxing the rule goes against a 2007 Supreme Court finding that CO2 is a pollutant that can be regulated under the Clean Air Act. The weakening of the rule also rejects scientific findings that such gases likely contribute to global warming–the physics on this point admittedly are not ironclad–by trapping heat that would normally radiate out of the Earth’s atmosphere.

The action also clearly thwarts the will of the incoming Barack Obama administration, and will burden the new officials with a tedious, time-consuming process to undo it. Of course, the new administration will do what must be done, and that will expose taxpayers to an expense that would otherwise be unnecessary.

Aside from power-plant officials, there are few left who do not accept, at least theoretically, the role played in climate change by CO2 emissions. In fact, even some of the power-plant folks are coming around.

Earlier this year, Dominion Virginia Power came to the bargaining table with environmentalists who feared the air-fouling implications of its huge new coal-fired plant in Southwest Virginia’s Wise County. As a result, the company has agreed to significantly cut the pollutants normally generated by such a plant. It is also pursuing new technology that will allow CO2 to be captured and injected into the Earth, where it would vex only the Pellucidarians.

Such efforts are particularly important in a region that needs the plant for the jobs and economic development it generates, but also needs to curtail the emissions that have contributed to acid rain and the destruction of vegetation in Appalachia.

Relaxing the EPA rule is not only a step backward, it mocks all the work environmentalists and polluters alike have done to limit emissions and their impact.

With no indication that he sees the absurdity of his statement, Robert Meyers, head of the EPA office of air and radiation, told critics of the agency’s position: “That is our established interpretation. We’ve been applying it that way for 30 years.”

That is probably a loose reference to when both the Clean Air Act and the EPA itself were created. It is also a period over which scientific knowledge and data-gathering technology have made tremendous strides.

A decision that suggests the nation’s “environmental protection” brain trust operates under a that’s-the-way-we’ve-always-done-it policy is simply appalling given all mankind knows now that it didn’t know then.

Such an eleventh-hour move by an outgoing administration is nothing of which to be proud, as history will duly record.

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