Last year, Premium T. and I had the unadulterated pleasure of spending a day driving through Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. We contemplated one transcendentally splendid vista after another, marveling at the beauty and diversity of this incomparable ecosystem. We gazed across the rich green and gold of Yellowstone's resplendent Hayden Valley, watching the buffalo herd graze and ford the Yellowstone River, which meanders through one of the closest approximations of paradise on this earth. A closer look revealed the rare sight of a lone wolf supping peaceably near a sand bar. As we took it all in, I turned to Premium T. and remarked, "Only one thing could improve on this -- could make it perfect. That would be the smoky plumes of a coal-fire power plant in the near distance."
Well, thanks to the Bush Administration, this vision is closer to reality. Over the objections of staff members and the forest service, EPA political appointees addressed a "legal issue" and a "policy issue" (not, apparently, a clean air issue) that worried no one outside of the extraction industry. It amounts to a new way of averaging air quality so the spikes in poor visibility are unaccounted for.
It's all about "averages," you see, and it doesn't make sense to take "the most conservative approach" with what remains of our precious national heritage. Or so says Jeffrey R. Holmstead, former head of the EPA's air and radiation office. Holmstead led development of the new "standards" before leaving the EPA to head the Environmental Strategies department of Bracewell & Giuliani, a massive law firm with clients as far flung as Dubai (Halliburton, anybody?) and that openly boasts of managing "cutting edge air and emissions issues on behalf of refineries, utilities, and manufacturers."
Luckily, we the people had a man like this devising air quality regulations instead of the scientists -- excuse me, "bureaucrats" -- at the EPA and the rangers -- I'm sorry, "environmental extremists" -- at the Forest Service. Not to worry, though, EPA deputy Robert J. Meyers assures us that the the new air quality rules are intended to "clarify how increment consumption must be addressed" and have absolutely positively no bearing whatsoever on facilitating the construction of power plants. But, he admits, "we are unable to conclusively confirm or deny their suggestion."