Press Releases & Bulletins

White Paper Calls for Halt to 'Flawed' Practice

(Washington, D.C. December 19, 2002) - Pollution trading -- heavily promoted by the Bush Administration as an alternative to the Clean Air Act -- has generally been a dismal failure, according to a landmark White Paper commissioned by the Clean Air Trust.

The White Paper, authored by Curtis A. Moore, former Republican Counsel to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, is perhaps the first comprehensive critical look at pollution trading, which is also advocated by big polluters.

The White Paper calls on policymakers to consider scrapping the process, which permits polluters to buy and sell the right to pollute rather than control pollution at each major industrial plant. Moore cites "grave flaws" uncovered by his investigation of past trading efforts -- particularly when trading has been attempted as a means to protect public health.

"Trading is policy that ought to be avoided altogether, except in the most narrow and carefully monitored circumstances," Moore writes.

"Serious consideration should be given to repealing trading programs now in existence" and "replacing them with policies of demonstrated success."

, executive director of the Clean Air Trust, noted that the Bush Administration recently weakened the so-called "new source review" rules designed to prevent increased pollution when major smokestack industries make major modifications. The administration also seeks repeal of new source review as part of a "multi-pollutant" emission-trading scheme.

"The Bush Administration alleges that its trading scheme would be an adequate substitute for the current Clean Air Act. That's why this White Paper was begun six months ago," said O'Donnell.

"This White Paper clearly shows it would be a terrible mistake and dangerous for public health to adopt the tradeoff offered by the Administration," said O'Donnell.

O'Donnell noted that the administration -- over the objections of environmentalists -- has also signaled it will permit pollution trading between highway trucks and engines used in diesel heavy equipment. "Pollution trading of that sort would, at best, delay and weaken controls on heavy equipment. Depending on the fine print, it could also jeopardize cleanup of diesel trucks," O'Donnell added.

He noted that EPA's Inspector General recently criticized several trading programs in Michigan and New Jersey, citing the lack of "safeguards" to protect public health. New Jersey's government has declared its trading scheme -- initiated by then-Governor Christine Todd Whitman -- a failure.

In his investigation of prior emission-trading programs, Moore focused closely on three prior trading schemes: the lead-in gasoline trading program, which began in 1974; the Regional Clean Air Incentives market, or RECLAIM, which started in Southern California in 1993; and the acid rain trading program, which was created by the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments.

"There can be little doubt trading certainly failed in two of the three cases examined here, RECLAIM and leaded gas, and seems destined to do the same in the third, acid rain," Moore writes. "The record is so stark and compelling that any expansion of trading beyond its current scope should be halted, and existing regimes should be rescinded before they cause further damage."

Moore identified key shortcomings in existing trading programs, including:

  • Failure to adequately protect human health and the environment.
  • A stifling of innovation in pollution controls.
  • Extraordinary delays.
  • Secrecy and limits on the public's right to know about pollution.
  • Shifting of burdens from polluters to breathers.
  • Fraud and malfeasance.

See the following White Paper PDF documents (Adobe Acrobat required). Some of these files are quite large. If you have trouble viewing the documents in your Web browser, try downloading them first by doing this:

Click on the link and hold the right mouse button down (on a Macintosh hold the single button down), and from the pop-up menu, select "Save this Link as...." or "Download this link to disk" or a similar command available in your browser. Note where you save each file. After you finish downloading, go to the folder in which you saved the file and double click on it to open it directly in Adobe Acrobat rather than opening it in your Web browser.

As always, please don't hesitate to call (202) 785-9625 if you'd like to discuss these or related issues.