HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Concordia University School of Law

Monday, January 30, 2012

A Fair and Balanced View of the Administration’s Environmental Regulation

On December 21, the Obama Administration released a new “mercury rule” to cut emissions of mercury, arsenic, and other toxic air pollutants from coal- and oil-fired power plants. Last week, the Administration made a stunning decision to stop the Keystone XL Pipeline project, reported here.

But the reality is that the Obama Administration has sided with industry on many environmental decisions. As recently as September 2, President Obama bowed to the demands of congressional Republicans and some business leaders and withdrew a proposed regulation to reduce concentrations of ground-level ozone, the main ingredient of smog See article here.

In July, the Administration issued a rule that exempts broad categories of industrial solid waste from regulation under the Clean Air Act (including scrap plastics, spent solvents and industrial sludges) if they are burned for energy by the company that generates them. Environmentalists have filed a lawsuit challenging the rule as a dangerous loophole that will release harmful toxins into the air.

Also this year, the Administration has been criticized by environmentalists for a Department of Energy investment in a multibillion dollar coal fired power plant in Mississippi, for its refusal to ban the harmful food additive BPA, and approval of offshore oil development plans, to name a few examples.

Recent decisions may indicate that Obama is willing to make politically risky decisions to protect the environment. But his overall record indicates that his Administration does not always side with environmentalists.


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