{Empty title} | The Nation

I used to work for International Paper and, like most companies, they have many creative people who work to take advantage of any and all opportunities presented, which unfortunately can lead to unintended negative consequences. Related to the "green" aspect of this report, IP had a printing plant (now closed) that had state-of-the-art pollution-control equipment that reduced its VOC (volatile organic compound) emissions to less than ten tons per year, as I recall. However, their permit allowed them to release 300 tons per year.

As you may guess, periodically they bypassed the pollution-control equipment in order to reach the 300-ton limit. They did this in the belief that if they didn't use their full permitted allotment, then the state would reduce their permit. They wanted to keep the level high in the off chance that they'd someday expand the plant's capacity. Rather than apply for a new permit, which was becoming more and more difficult to obtain, they preferred to keep the larger umbrella amount under which they could expand production without state approval.

I think if someone wanted to do an in-depth investigation of this "unintended" consequence, they would probably find millions of tons of pollutants released per year across many US industries.

While we are fighting global warming, it might be a good first step to encourage reality-based VOC permitting to reduce unnecessary emissions. Every little step will help.

I encourage Christopher Hayes to investigte this aspect of industrial greenhouse gases in more detail and write a report more comprehensive than my one little example.