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March 15, 2005


Right, trading results in "hot spots." It can be improved with a cap, sometimes called "cap and trade." Is that what's being proposed/enacted, or is it some bogus noncapped trading system?

I don't have the heart to closely follow enviro policy these days.

if there's anybody reading this, here's an excerpt from the NY Times: (btw, this IS a cap and trade program)

..........Some environmentalists said the agency should have simply required uniform emission limits, to reduce concentrations everywhere. They say the new rule means that some plants will end up doing nothing to curb emissions, allowing mercury "hot spots" to persist, affecting the health of people living nearby.

But Jeffrey R. Holmstead, the assistant administrator, defended the "cap and trade" system, already used for a pollutant that causes acid rain. "The highest deposition is in areas where there are concentrations of very large power plants," Mr. Holmstead said. "Because of the economies of scale when it comes to pollution control, all of our analysis and experience with acid rain shows the largest plants are the ones that control the most, and control the soonest."

Economists say the cost of eliminating a ton of pollution is lower under cap and trade than under a blanket rule.

Some environmentalists disagreed, though, that the cap-and-trade concept would work for mercury. Fred Krupp, president of Environmental Defense, which is based in New York, said that while other pollutants were under a cap-and-trade system, they were also regulated with "a cascade of other clean air programs to ensure that health standards are met everywhere." In contrast, he said, mercury is a highly potent neurotoxin and this is the only rule that applies to it.

"In this case trading is just completely inappropriate because of the nature of the pollutant and the lack of other safeguards," he said.

But Mr. Holmstead said the system gave companies an incentive to start controls early, so they could save up credits and delay final compliance. He predicted that emissions by 2010 would fall to 31 tons, lower than the target of 38 tons. The current level is 48 tons per year.

On March 10 the Environmental Protection Agency announced a "clean air interstate rule" that will further limit emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, and in controlling those two pollutants, power plants will also be filtering out mercury.

There's an article in today's WSJ about how the scrubbers don't all get mercury as well as the other emissions, and a lot of utility companies are holding back for a year or more before installing scrubbers, because they want to see how the various technologies work. But the gist of the article is that none of them really get the mercury out without some extra cost, so the plants will probably delay putting them on until they have to, and hope that in the meantime someone comes up with a cheaper way of doing it.

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