EPA: mercury levels for coal plants, delay in release of climate change reports; failure to address CO2 levels in global warming: Massachusetts v. EPA April 2007. On May 14, 2007, Bush asked government agencies to come up with a plan and submit it to him 3 weeks before he leaves office. The stalling continued on May 31, 2007, when Bush called for what was termed an aspirational goal of coming up with voluntary limits to greenhouse gases in the next 18 months (or again just before he leaves office) to go into effect after Kyoto expires in 2012. The number of civil cases brought against polluters decreased 70% between 2002 and 2006 compared to the rate in the 1990s.
December 19, 2007, going against the unanimous recommendation of his legal and technical staff, EPA administrator Stephen Johnson refused to grant California a waiver so that it could enforce stricter than federal emissions guidelines. The state along with 16 others sought to force automakers to cut emissions in all their vehicles by 30% by 2016. On January 2, 2008, California sued the EPA to force a reversal of its decision.
On January 18, 2008, Johnson sent heavily redacted documents to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works investigating his decision. In the accompanying letter, Associate Administrator Christopher Bliley in explaining the redactions cited executive privilege (even though none of the decision making involved Bush), a "chilling effect" upon his staff (even though he ignored them), confusion the public might have in understanding "the Agency’s full and complete thinking on the matter" (even though it’s clear what Johnson was up to), and the lawsuits by the states challenging Johnson’s decision (which would not have been filed if Johnson had not made such an unjustifiable decision).
On February 8, 2008, in New Jersey v. EPA, the DC Court of Appeals threw out the EPA’s plan to use a voluntary cap and trade system to reduce mercury emissions in coal and oil fired power plants. The plan would have allowed plants that failed to meet their emissions goals to purchase credits from those plants that had. The problem with this kind of system is that it would allow some plants to be dirtier than others and so expose some communities more than others.
As to the facts of the case, the court found that in December 2000 the EPA had deemed it appropriate and necessary to regulate mercury emissions from coal and oil fired power plants under the mandatory and stricter rules of Section 112 of the Clean Air Act (USC Title 42 Sec. 4712). In 2005 under the Bush Administration, the EPA removed these power plants from the Section 112 list of polluters. To do so, the EPA needed to show that emissions from all such plants were at “a level which is adequate to protect public health with an ample margin of safety and no adverse environmental effect will result.” (Sec. 112 (c)(9)(B)(ii)) It didn’t do this. It couldn’t do this. A cap and trade system for a major pollutant would never fit such a requirement. As a result, the court ruled that the EPA decision to remove these power plants from Section 112 was unlawful as was consequently the EPA’s cap and trade scheme.
On August 19, 2008, in Sierra Club v. EPA, the DC Court of Appeals in a 2-1 decision with Brett Kavanaugh (entry 137) dissenting overturned a 2006 Bush Administration prohibition on states using stricter than federal pollution monitoring standards, if they deemed these to be inadequate, in the issuance of permits for emissions from industrial sources, such as power plants, chemical plants, and refineries. In 1990, amendments to the Clean Air Act had mandated that the government set minimum standards for monitoring but allowed states to enact more restrictive rules as these became outdated or were found to be insufficient. The prohibition by the Bush EPA was seen as a major rollback of the nation’s clean air laws and a gift to polluting industries.