Front Porch Blog

Close Calls as Congress Defeats Rollbacks to EPA Boiler Rule and Speed-up of Keystone XL Pipeline

"Expect Political Attacks" -- Narrowly successful votes on the Boiler MACT standards and Keystone XL pipeline may ramp up attacks on the EPA, again.

Get ready, because a hostile hive of lobbyists echoing industry cries that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is no more than big government, job-killing, mean, green machine may have just been shaken up again.

On Thurs., March 8, Congress narrowly defeated an amendment to a transportation funding bill authored by Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) that would delay the EPA’s proposed Boiler MACT regulations, receiving 52 of the 60 votes it needed to pass. An amendment to the bill to push through the controversial Keystone XL pipeline was also considered but fell just four votes short.

The Boiler MACT, or “maximum achievable control technology,” rule, will set new standards for more than 200,000 industrial boilers and incinerators by requiring technology that reduces harmful air pollutants such as mercury, arsenic and lead. The EPA maintains that the standards will offer major public health benefits, preventing 8,100 premature deaths and 5,100 heart attacks a year starting in 2015 and estimates that Americans would receive $12 to $30 in health benefits for every dollar spent to meet the proposed standards. But as expected, opponents and industry groups are crying foul. What about the jobs!?

If you have been paying attention, you’ve noticed that our Congress has become adept at attacking the EPA. If you haven’t, you’re probably scratching your head wondering why the EPA is catching flack for pursuing its mission — the protection of human health and the environment. Well, be careful who you trust. Some would have you think there is a war going on. It’s economy vs. environment — that’s easy to see! And only one can win. Resist the urge to accept this simplistic train wreck of thought.

Anyone advocating we give industry a pass to keep polluting our air and water completely misses the fact that, with the unmitigated destruction of our environment, our economic utopia, if we ever reach it, will be a wasteland. With these votes, the Senate has given us a glimmer of hope that they’re beginning to come to. Maybe they are starting to listen, but both of the votes still came a little too close for comfort.

The “delay” is common face-saving tactic these days. If passed, Collins’ amendment would have sent the EPA back to square one on the boiler rules. The agency would be required to take a 15 month period to re-propose the Boiler MACT regulations and adopt standards that are “least burdensome” to industry (even if they are most burdensome to the public). And even then, compliance deadlines would be extended by at least two years to give facilities more time to comply with the rule.

North Carolina and Virginia residents who support the EPA should thank their senators Kay Hagan and Mark Warner for voting against the amendment. Unfortunately, on the amendment to fast-track the Keystone XL pipeline, yet another issue that our media and politicians have successfully framed as the front lines of the “economy vs. environment” war, Hagan and many others have yet to wake up.




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