Neoconservative Political Correctness Recognized by Court

Chemical & Engineering News, June 18, 2007

The final piece in the above linked pdf file is yet another instance of the Bush Administration’s failure to reclassify certain activities ostensibly in order to embellish or to hide its failure or to appease its supporters.

In this instance, the EPA had reclassified waste incinerators as less polluting devices. Thus, it had exempted them from stricter emission standards and, presumably, saved the companies that operate such incinerators considerable time and money. Fortunately, a panel of Federal judges overturned this reclassification.

The agency had argued that it could set less stringent controls for these incinerators by treating them as though they were “boilers” or “process heaters” that burn only fossil fuels. The court rejected that argument, stating that facilities that burn waste are incinerators and must meet the Clean Air Act’s strictest emissions standard. The panel denied petitions by EPA and industry groups for a rehearing, and sent the incinerator rule back for “wholesale revision.”

It is difficult to frame such a reclassification in anything other than politics. After all, the reason something that boils water is called a boiler and something that burns non-flammable organic materials at absurdly high temperatures is called an incinerator is that these are fundamentally different processes. If burning oil was the same as burning trash, then engineers would certainly not have gone through the trouble of re-engineering a new operation and Christening it with a different name.

Furthermore, the chemical signatures of these two devices are radically different because the boiler only uses hydrocarbons as fuel but the incinerator uses, well, anything. This is why they come under different emission rules.

This reclassification is as absurd as the reclassification of fast food jobs (such as assembling a burger at McDonald’s) as manufacturing jobs by the Economic Report of the President in 2004. It’s enough to make one want to shout “go reclassify yourself, pal”.

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