[San Francisco Chronicle]: EPA to issue new rule on mercury emissions; Not all power plants will need to cut pollution

The rule is certain to be contested
in court by environmental groups, who charge that it places the
financial interests of power companies over public health.

Industry groups back the
cap-and-trade approach as more practical and cost-effective than the
alternative that environmentalists prefer: limiting emissions at every

The EPA’s actions in developing the
mercury rule prompted intense criticism by the agency’s inspector
general and the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office, which
said the agency ignored scientific evidence….

To justify the new approach, the
administration reversed a decision by the Clinton administration to
list mercury as a ‘hazardous air pollutant.’

 I think it was Adam Smith who said, a couple of centuries ago,
that ‘perfect markets require perfect information.’ You can’t get
perfect information through, in Barry Commoner’s apt phrase,
‘linguistic detoxification’ — an approach this administration finds all too comfortable

I tend to be partial to market based solutions as part of the
transformation armametarium, but I doubt that you get an effective
solution with effective drivers. In the case of CO2, the Kyoto Protocol
may be sufficient. In the case of a potent neurotoxin like mercury —
where the public health impact can be staggering — any ‘caps’ in a cap
and trade system need to start low, and get ratcheted down fast.

BACT (‘best available control technology’) can’t be allowed to drive
the ratchet rate. On the contrary, the cap needs to ratcheted down fast
enough to drive technology and process innovation.

Either that, or the rule promulgators and the government officials that
appoint them could volunteer to move their own families downwind and
downstream of those plants. Now there’s some simple and elegant
regulatory cybernetics!

(Historical footnote: Might Dupont’s vaunted safety record have
anything to do with a legacy of having managers — back when they were
a munitions company — live near the plants, not on some hillside miles
away? Mmm… could be!)