More News on Three-Pollutant Legislation

As I noted a couple of weeks ago, Representative John McHugh (R-NY) has introduced legislation that would require significant reductions in emissions of SO2 and NOx, and mercury from power plants. Now, Senators Carper (D-Del.) and Alexander (R-Tenn.) have announced that they will be introducing their own three-pollutant legislation in the Senate. Since they have not yet introduced a bill, we’ll all just have to imagine the specifics for now, but a few interesting nuggets have jumped out of the press releases and news reports.

First, Representative McHugh apparently wants to tie his legislation to the climate bill. However, Senator Alexander, at least, affirmatively wants to keep three-pollutant legislation separate from the climate bill. Senator Alexander seems to be looking to make a name for himself as a Republican willing to advance environmental causes. In addition to this bill, he is also sponsor of legislation that would preclude mountaintop removal. Keeping this bill separate from climate legislation may be a way to walk a fine line, since one can still imagine a scenario in which there is significant pressure from the GOP leadership to have all Republican Senators oppose climate legislation.

Second, Senator Carper specifically referred to using market forces to regulate SO2 and NOx, but he did not use similar language for mercury, which suggests that, like the McHugh legislation, the Senate bill will also require facility-specific mercury reductions, rather than allowing a cap-and-trade program for mercury.

EPA is apparently indicating that it may take two years to promulgate new regulations to replace its ill-fated CAIR regulations. In that context, if the movers and shakers in Congress perceive that three-pollutant legislation can pass relatively quickly, it might be seen as an appropriate way to show some environmental progress while climate change proposals get turned into legislative sausage.

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