Last September, the Obama EPA issued a new rule limiting the levels of air pollution that would be allowed in the states. The idea was to save lives and health, because industrial air pollution is well-documented to threaten both. Wisely, the rule created an exception for events outside the state’s control–such as wildfires or volcanic eruptions–that could dramatically increase air pollution on a short-term basis, and which the state had little or no ability to control.
But leave it to history’s most polluter-friendly EPA, run by the petroleum industry’s best spokesperson, Scott Pruitt, to take a good idea and exploit it as an excuse to create more life-endangering pollution. According to a lawsuit filed by two giants in the environmental protection field– the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and The Sierra Club–Pruitt has created another exception to the rule. This exception goes far beyond creating short-term allowances for natural, unforeseeable, uncontrollable events. As alleged, this new exception now allows more “emissions from coal-burning power plants, oil refineries, chemical plants, hazardous waste incinerators and a wide variety of industrial activity”, so long as the emissions are the result of “reasonable controlled human activity”.
So, under this new “exception”, as long as Scott Pruitt decides that the polluters for whom he has been working his entire professional career are doing their best to “reasonably control” pollution, such pollution can never violate the rule. It can never be too much pollution. In other words, not only is the arsonist now in charge of the fire department, but he also wants to be the one to decide whether the department will even respond to a fire, or just let the village burn down.
The NRDC and Sierra club are fighting this one for all of us. Thanks, and good luck to them.
They are going to be busy for a while, because there is lots more of this to come.