The LA Times reports on the lengths to which the Bush team went, in the case of mercury, to privilege profits for industry over health for citizens: Political appointees in the Environmental Protection Agency bypassed agency professional staff and a federal advisory panel last year to craft a rule on mercury emissions preferred by the industry and the White House, several longtime EPA officials say. The EPA staffers say they were told not to undertake the normal scientific and economic studies called for under a standing executive order. At the same time, the proposal to regulate mercury emissions from coal-burning power plants was written using key language provided by utility lobbyists. The Bush administration has said that the proposed rule would cut mercury emissions by 70% in the next 15 years, and is tied to the president's "Clear Skies" initiative. Critics say it would delay reductions in mercury levels for decades at a risk to public health, while saving the power and coal industries billions of dollars. Studies designed to address such questions are the ones that were not conducted. EPA veterans say they cannot recall another instance when the agency's technical experts were cut out of developing a major regulatory proposal. The administration chose a process "that would support the conclusion they wanted to reach," said John A. Paul, a Republican environmental regulator from Ohio who co-chaired the EPA-appointed advisory panel. He said its 21 months of work on mercury was ignored. Last week, when I knocked on one woman's door while canvassing about the failure of the Bush administration's current proposal to meet Clean Air Acts standards for mercury emissions, she said to me, "I used to eat tuna every day. I love tuna. Now I don't eat it anymore because of mercury here. And I miss tuna." So what's national is local - sometimes very, very local. Meanwhile, every body of water in Florida is under a mercury advisory warning consumers that its fish could cause birth defects. It's time for a substantive response.


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