The Age of Irony

In what may be one of the most ironic, not to mention hypocritical, twists in an Admin that seems to specialize in them, EPA Administrator Michael Leavitt, the man who changed the New Source Review regulations so that power plants could continue to use the old equipment responsible for polluting our air, had the balls to issue warnings to cities and towns about how dirty their air is.

On April 15, the Environmental Protection Agency will release a list of about 500 counties that violate or contribute to violations of ground-level ozone, more than double the number listed under older standards. Ground-level ozone, which is odorless and invisible, is a major component of smog on hot summer days. Prolonged exposure causes the equivalent of sunburn to the lungs.

And it’s not too hard to figure out why Leavitt has allowed himself to be so concerned when emissions of mercury and sulfer dioxide from power plants don’t bother him: that was a Federal problem; this is a local problem.

Many states and locales are reviewing strategies that would intimately affect how people live — from cutting speed limits by 5 miles per hour, to discouraging house painting during summer months, to giving tax breaks to businesses that encourage telecommuting.”It will underscore vividly that almost all of our activities during the day directly or indirectly contribute to air pollution and smog levels,” said William Becker, the executive director of the State and Territorial Air Pollution Program Administrators and the Association of Local Air Pollution Control Officials.

So, see? All those nasty power plant emissions full of poisons and heavy metals and such aren’t really a problem and don’t need to be regulated. The real source of air pollution is all those damn houses you paint in the summertime! Sheesh, will you people knock it off? And while you’re at it, there’s a couple other things we want you to do:

School districts have pushed the start of the academic year after the hottest parts of August, in part to reduce the need for air-conditioning and the pollution from electricity generation that produces it. Schools also are organizing students to walk to and from school in groups with parental chaperons to cut back on cars using the roads and idling in front of schools.Some companies are asking employees to bring lunch or eat in company cafeterias to cut down on traffic during the hottest part of the day. Some businesses are discouraging use of drive-through lanes, asking customers to park and come inside.

Yessir, that oughta do it. Then we won’t have to ever bother about those power plants again and the energy industry won’t ever have to spend another dime on wasteful, pointless items like filters and smokestack-scrubbers. Way to identify the true culprits, Mr Leavitt–schools and housepainters and long lines at the drive-thru. That was some detective work.

(PS–Really, read the Bruce Barcott piece [the first link]. It’s long and it’ll probably piss you off, but it’s some of the best environmental reporting the NYT has done in years, and it’s important stuiff to know.)

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