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Great Lakes Article:

Senate Panel to Draft Utility Pollution Bill

Planet Ark


WASHINGTON - Frustrated with the Bush administration's approach to curb pollution from U.S. utilities, the Senate Environment Committee will draft legislation that would sharply limit power plant emissions linked to global warming and acid rain.

Sen. Jim Jeffords, a Vermont independent who heads the panel, wants to cut emissions of carbon dioxide by 43 percent, nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide by 82 percent, and mercury by 90 percent. The four pollutants contribute to smog, soot and acid rain and are blamed for health ailments such as asthma and bronchitis.

The Democrat-controlled panel will hold a bill-drafting session after months of delays while attempting to devise a compromise with Republican lawmakers.

Jeffords acknowledged that his legislation faces an uphill battle. The Republican-led House has shown little interest in a utility pollution bill, and Congress is scheduled to adjourn in October.

"Even though there is precious little time left in this session, and very little constructive engagement from the Administration, it's vitally important that we move forward to reduce power plants' emissions," he said in a statement.

The bill would require the cuts by 2008.

The U.S. utility industry opposes any legislation, saying strict emissions limits would be costly to carry out and force many plants to shut down.

The Bush administration earlier this year proposed mandatory 70 percent cuts of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and mercury emissions by 2018. The proposal, which has yet to be spelled out in legislation, would largely depend on encouraging companies to trade emissions credits.

The White House plan did not set any limit for carbon dioxide, the pollutant that many scientists blame for global warming.

A preliminary version of Jeffords' bill would set annual emission limits of 1.5 million tons of nitrogen oxides, 2 billion tons of carbon dioxide, and 5 tons of mercury.

For sulfur dioxide, the bill would set one limit of 275,000 tons for western states and a higher limit of 1.98 million tons for eastern states.

The Senate proposal also included a provision allowing U.S. utilities to meet the new limits by trading emission allowances among themselves, except for mercury.

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