Ok, this is a subject I have at least some expertise in, having spent a lot of years in the utility industry. Several states, led by leading New York demagogue Elliot (I’ll be Governor if it kills you) Spitzer, have “won” a lawsuit forbidding the EPA from relaxing a certain clause in the Clean Air Act. The new rules would have let aging power plants make improvements without having to upgrade to the latest “best available” pollution control equipment.
"Under the Clean Air Act, operators who do anything more than routine maintenance are required to add more pollution-cutting devices. Under the proposed change, industrial facilities could have avoided paying for expensive emissions-cutting devices if they spent less than 20 percent of the plant's value”.
Elliot is, of course, crowing about the great victory he just won. Here’s why it is no victory at all: The current rules allow the older plants to continue to operate exactly as they have been. They will continue, for now, to emit at the current rates, and emissions will gradually increase as more equipment ages and less is spent on maintenance. The kinds of improvements that are now banned actually are ones that increase the plant’s efficiency, thereby reducing the emissions the plant makes. When I was managing engineering at a large fossil plant, we had to be very, very careful about what we installed. We routinely made decisions not to install things that would have increased the plant’s efficiency, producing more power for the same emission output. We did so in order to avoid running afoul of the (stupid) rule that would have forced us to install “best available” emission controls. But Elliot and company just saved everyone. Aren’t you proud? For Gaius’ primer on power, see here.