Friday, May 5, 2006

Stop mind twisters that would parch planet

The demise of a single coal-fired power plant in Jerome may do little to keep global warming in check, but the war against global climate change will be won one battle at a time.

Happily, other states are acknowledging the problem with pollutants.

Ten states have filed suit against the federal government in hopes of forcing the Environmental Protection Agency to crack down on industrial emissions, particularly because of plans in their regions for construction of 130 coal-fired electric generating plants that spew pollutants.

They have their work cut out for them, especially when it comes to dealing with the prodigious twisted word-smithing coming out of the White House.

Bill Clinton tried a famously devious word game to deny a sexual interlude with Monica Lewinsky: "It all depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is."

President George W. Bush's administration also finds mind twisters useful. Some of the best double-talk has been reserved for ignoring air and water quality.

In his 2000 election campaign, Bush promised new rules covering industrial carbon dioxide emissions, from smokestacks as well as autos. But in March 2001, two months after inauguration, Bush reversed himself: Carbon dioxide controls would be too costly for industry.

Then, in August 2003, EPA general counsel Robert Fabricant added a new twist: "Because the (Clean Air Act) does not authorize regulation to address climate change, it follows that (carbon dioxide) and other (greenhouse gases), as such, are not air pollutants."

So, what once was a pollutant too expensive to regulate was declared—presto!—a non-pollutant.

The mumbo-jumbo isn't playing well.

The White House would do well to notice that even hidebound conservative Idaho put the brakes on an attempt to build a coal-fired electric generating plant outside Jerome—because of pollutants.

Federal lawyers are now fighting the states on behalf of industry. They have taken up the word games and insist there's no emissions problem, or the problem, if it exists, defies technological remedies.

The states have nowhere to turn but the courts. Congress has shown no leadership on the issue. It's hard to name an instance, other than ladling out funds for home district pork projects, of "congressional leadership," which everyday looks more like an oxymoron.

With quarter-to-quarter profits the prime objective of smokestack and automotive industries—not long-range social responsibility—the states have become the last line of defense for protecting the nation's interests.

The states can only hope that the courts will see through the mind twisters and force the administration to ice plans that could parch the planet.

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