The General Accounting Office issued an objection on Monday to the EPA's provisional review of the Bush administration's Clear Skies legislation, which seeks to roll back regulations curbing emissions from coal-fired power plants. President Bush is backing a "cap-and-trade" system to address the 48 tons of mercury churned out by the plants every year, which would permit plants to trade pollution credits instead of abiding by stricter rules to reduce emissions.
The GAO report suggested that a less than "transparent" EPA downplayed mercury's toxic effects on human learning and fetal development -- dangers previously documented by the agency itself -- due to pressure from the administration to come up with findings more favorable to Bush's market-based initiative. The GAO's suggestion of tainted reporting follows a statement by the EPA's inspector general earlier this month, who charged that the agency's analysis was "compromised" to accommodate a White House agenda friendly to the energy industry.
As the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works prepares to vote on the bill for the third time (it has been deadlocked for weeks), it seems that some Republicans are still in denial about the connection between toxic mercury emissions and human health. But as Salon's Katharine Mieszkowski has documented, mercury pollution is a problem that many Americans may want to worry about personally.