Friday, February 18, 2005

N.C.'s Struggle with Bush's E.P.A.

Let's recap:

1. Because about a third of North Carolina's counties do not meet federal standards for ozone or fine particle pollution, N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper filed a petition last March under the federal Clean Air Act, asking the U.S. government to declare that pollution from other states is contributing to North Carolina's air problems. The law requires states to prevent their emissions from contributing to another state's air pollution. Such a petition as the one Cooper filed is the mechanism for states to ask for direct federal regulation of pollution from upwind states.

2. When EPA missed the deadline to answer Cooper's petition (while Bush officials instead maneuvered to amend the law to get rid of the petitioning right which Cooper had exercised), Cooper threatened to sue in November to force EPA to do something about 13 states that are contributing bad stuff to N.C.'s air quality (a suit he was bound to win, if there's an unbought-off federal judge left anywhere on earth). The primary culprits: power plants in Georgia, Maryland, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia.

3. Yesterday, EPA agreed to reach a decision by August 1st on whether air pollution from those other states was causing air problems in N.C. Now because the EPA is (belatedly) actually following the law in even this feint toward enforcement, our attorney general Cooper has decided to act the blissful idiot: "Cleaner air is right around the corner for North Carolina," Cooper said yesterday in Raleigh. "We have a strong case. We have shown these power plants in other states contribute significant air pollution to North Carolina."

But what EPA agreed to yesterday was NOT to do anything but only to decide by Aug. 1st WHETHER to do anything ... a huge difference. For anyone even vaguely tracking the performance of this administration with reference to the environment, Cooper's "cleaner air is right around the corner" glee is just so ... naive.

We certainly applaud the attorney general for doing his job and demanding that the EPA enforce the friggin' law. (He's one of the few statewide Democratic office holders who strike us as both brave and righteous.) But we consider his celebratory dance of yesterday to be waaay short of any goal-line.

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