Clean air, jobs can co-exist, Bush says

MONROE, Mich. - President Bush insisted yesterday that pollution regulations can be simplified without increasing emissions or slashing jobs - even at aging coal-fired power plants.

“When we talk about environmental policy in this Bush administration, we not only talk about clean air, we talk about jobs,” he told workers at the Detroit Edison Monroe Power Plant. “I believe we can do both.”

Mr. Bush explained how his administration recently simplified regulations, to encourage modernization of power plants such as Monroe’s. Previously, utilities were reluctant to tackle such upgrades because complicated regulations invited confusion and lawsuits.

“I changed those regulations,” the president told the mostly blue-collar audience. “Now we’ve issued new rules that will allow utility companies like this one right here to make routine repairs and upgrades without enormous costs and endless disputes.”

The change prompted Detroit Edison to move forward on a major upgrade it had been reluctant to implement since 1999 because of red tape at the Environmental Protection Agency.

“When the company took the plan to the EPA, the first thing that happened is they had to wait a year for an answer,” Mr. Bush said, prompting derisive laughter from management and employees alike.

“And when the answer did come back, it was so complicated - because the rules are so complicated - that Detroit Edison decided to delay part of the project until its experts could decipher the details of the ruling,” he added. “The government sometimes doesn’t help.”

In addition to touting the rules change, Mr. Bush announced implementation of a measure that will cut pollution from diesel vehicles. He also called on Congress to pass his “Clear Skies” legislation, which would use a market-based approach to aim at cutting power-plant pollution by 70 percent.

Democratic presidential candidates immediately attacked the Bush initiatives.

“The president’s ‘Clear Skies’ plan would actually allow more pollution from power plants, like the very one he is visiting today, than the current law,” said front-runner Howard Dean, a former Vermont governor. “This kind of bait-and-switch approach is, regrettably, the hallmark of this administration’s environmental policy.”

Another candidate, Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, agreed.

“The backdrop of President Bush’s latest environment photo op - the dirtiest power plant in Michigan - says it all,” Mr. Lieberman said.

“Under Bush’s policies, this antiquated coal-burning plant will get a free pass to keep pumping smoke and soot into the air with impunity.”

Gerry Anderson, president and chief operating officer of Detroit Edison, said it was unfair to brand his facility the dirtiest in Michigan.

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