Thursday, April 06, 2006

Getting F*cked For Industry: Nuclear & Air Quality

Bending over backwards for the interests of industry has become the lifestyle of choice for this administration.  And so it continues.

Currently, two federal agencies have advanced this cause, to the exclusion of safety interests.

According to the GAO, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has diminished its own security regulations.  And apparently, it has done so at the suggestion of the industry.

NYT Link

WASHINGTON, April 3 -- After consulting with the industry, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission weakened security regulations it had proposed for reactors, government auditors said in a report to be released on Tuesday.

The auditors said the process "created the appearance that the changes were made based on what the industry considered reasonable and feasible to defend against rather than an assessment of the terrorist threat itself."

This study was requested by Rep. Christopher Shays (R.-Conn.), chairman of the subcommittee on national security of the House Government Reform Committee.  Rep. Shays does not mince words.

"These G.A.O. findings paint a decidedly mixed picture of nuclear power security today. While documented progress has been made in strengthening reactor security standards, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission seems unable to fortify itself against the dangers of an overly cozy relationship with the industry."..."The regulated should not even appear to be able to dictate security standards to the regulator."

Mr.David Lochbaum, of the Union of Concerned Scientists, had this to say, in part:

"How did the commissioners decide to overrule their staff?"

Finally, public discussion has been severely curtailed.

The commission has cut off almost all public discussion on security issues; the government accountability report is one of the few independent looks at the status of the plants.

NRC propaganda, including security information, can be found here.

In an apparent effort at one-upsmanship in gift-giving to industry, the EPA has a secret proposal that would lower many air pollution standards paving the way for greatly increased emission of various toxins.  The proposal has caused internal divisions at the agency.


WASHINGTON (April 3, 2006) -- A secret proposal by the Environmental Protection Agency, so controversial that it has provoked strong internal dissent, would weaken nearly 100 toxic air pollution standards and allow industrial plants across the country to emit significantly greater amount of toxins, according to a draft rule obtained by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

The draft rule would seriously erode existing standards under the Clean Air Act by permitting thousands of oil refineries, hazardous waste incinerators, chemical plants and steel mills to increase their emissions by as much as 50,000 pounds a year.

But relax, because the EPA, steadfast guardian of our interests, says that self-policing by industry will make certain a happy ending.

Yet EPA dismisses the concerns of its own experts by asserting that polluters would not increase their emissions because they fear "negative publicity" and because they want to "maintain their appearance as responsible businesses."

I feel warm inside already!

But getting back to reality, internal divisions over the proposal have caused regional offices to object in a 9 page memo.

The rule is so extreme that officials at nine out of the EPA's ten regional offices joined in a nine-page memo to protest the proposal, saying that, if implemented, it "would be detrimental to the environment and undermine the intent" of the Clean Air Act.

The scathing internal memo also said the rule would create a loophole that allows polluters to "virtually avoid regulation and greatly complicate any enforcement against them" and eliminate the ability of EPA and the public to effectively monitor and take action against toxic polluters.

Of course, this story would not be complete without the usual Bushco ironic nomination du jour, and Mr.Bush does not disappoint.

The rule was drafted during the tenure of William Wehrum, acting head of EPA's air office, and would reverse longstanding agency policy. The rule also seeks to go much further than a controversial 2003 approach sought by Wehrum's predecessor, Jeffery Holmstead.

President Bush has nominated Wehrum to succeed Holmstead. His confirmation hearing before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is scheduled for Wednesday.

The NRDC is here.


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