A recent court ruling has been rendered against First Energy over electrical power plant renovations. The essence is that old power plants were grandfathered in to the Clean Air Act of 1970, unless the plants were “improved” as opposed to “maintained”. The enforcement and ruling of this clause have been spotty at best over the intervening years.
I originally heard this on NPR and their reporting of it made me sympathetic to the power company. NPR reported that the Clean Air Act forbade modifying the plant in such a way as to increase pollution, but that the energy company had been cited to not decreasing pollution. Having done a few minutes of research (apparently more than NPR did) I can see the judge’s point. I’m not sure I agree but the ruling is not prima facie bogus as NPR led me to believe.
This issue is a classic case of why I support pollution vouchers / credits / trading. When the goverment gets in to the minutia of how to reduce pollution at specific power plants, then we have a scheme guaranteed to be less effective and more expensive than possible alternatives. Pollution credits, on the other hand, would encourage companies to do the most reduction at the cheapest price, which is good for everyone except professional environmentalists. It would avoid having the legal system decided between “maintenance” and “improvement” and save those costs as well, although at the cost of reducing the legal fees and ability to whip up hysteria by the greens. That’s a price I’m wiling to pay.