Industry Wields Its Influence Over Air Pollution Regulations And Enforcement
When the proposal of Sunflower Electric Power Corp to construct two new power units in 2007 was rejected by Kansas’ top environmental regulator, the company refused to take no for an answer. When the bills that would have made the construction possible in 2008 and 2009 were vetoed by the state’s governor, the power company again refused to give in.
The persistence of Sunflower paid off. In 2009, the new Kansas governor approved the construction of a coal plant in the city of Holcomb, so long as legislators in Kansas at the same time will support renewable energy policies. As for the state regulator who denied the permit of Sunflower, he was let go.
According to Sunflower, its permit was won based on its merits and political influence was never a factor.
Nevertheless, the success of the company shows how the industry usually wins when it starts to flex its muscles over issues regarding Clean Air Act.
Community groups from Kansas, Texas, Wisconsin, Louisiana and Ohio, have fought against expansion, construction of new plants and chronic emissions, only to find themselves defeated by the industries that continuously score victories with politicians and regulators.
Jim Tar, an air pollution consultant based in California who had also worked for the Texas Air Control Board during the 70s as an engineer, said, “We’re not protecting public health today. One of the primary reasons we’re not is that the environmental agencies have been co-opted by the people doing the polluting.”
The president of the Council of Industrial Boiler Owners, Robert Bessette, reacted by saying that the motivation of the industry in pushing for their interests is no secret. “It has to fight for its survival. Industry, when pushed up against the wall, reacts,” said Bessette.