While Congress may be fiddling on climate legislation, Senators Carper and Alexander are attempting to put three pollutant legislation back on the congressional agenda. Yesterday, they introduced an aggressive three pollutant bill. Here are the highlights. The bill would:

Codify the CAIR program through 2011

Gradually reduce the cap on SO2 emission allowances to 1.5 million tons by 2018 – substantially more stringent than the CAIR would have imposed.

Reduce NOx caps to 1.6 million tons by 2015.

Create two NOx trading zones. Zone 1 includes 32 Eastern states and the District of Columbia. Zone 2 includes the remaining 16 contiguous states.

Coal- and oil-fired power plants would have to reduce mercury emissions by 90%. There would be no trading program for mercury.  

I still find it remarkable that Senator Alexander, a coal-state Republican, is a co-sponsor of the bill. Nor does he seem to be half-hearted about it. Money quote:

"We have a number of different things to work out on carbon.… But there's no excuse for waiting a minute on SOx, NOx and mercury because we have the technology, we know what to do, and we shouldn't be operating coal plants without pollution control equipment. (My emphasis.)"

I have, until recently, assumed that climate change legislation would happen this year. Now that that seems less likely, and with Senator Alexander as a sponsor, it will be interesting to see if the Senate is able to move this legislation, as an alternative. It is worth noting that climate change legislation necessarily would also have resulted in reductions in SO2, NOx, and mercury. Unfortunately, the converse is not also true. In the absence of GHG controls, three pollutant legislation would actually increase GHG emissions, because the traditional means of reducing emissions of SO2, NOx, and mercury are energy hogs. Oh, well.