The Supreme Court finally cleared the way to proceed with the new air quality standards in February 2001, and within a few months, EPA analysts had readied an aggressive "straw proposal"--the plan they would initially bring to the bargaining table where Clear Skies would be hammered out--for reducing power plant pollution.
The most important EPA official in shaping Clear Skies was Jeff Holmstead, a Bush appointee and head of the agency's Office for Air and Radiation.
Boyden Gray under the elder Bush, Holmstead had toiled on the Acid Rain program signed into law in 1990, which set the stage for Clear Skies by establishing a novel emissions trading program.
Despite his support for the Acid Rain program and his steady advocacy of EPA's ambitious multi-pollutant proposal within the administration, Holmstead was soon pegged as an industry lackey during the battle over Clear Skies. He was the public face of the administration's industry-friendly campaign to dismantle new source review of old power plants, a program popular among lawyers in the EPNs enforcement division.
Almost as soon as an interagency group formed to design Clear Skies, Energy staffers began challenging EPA's straw proposal.
When the interagency process to draft Clear Skies began in earnest in summer 2001, the key decisions in reducing fine particle pollution were how low would the sulfur dioxide cap be set, and how long would power companies have to slash emissions.
The meeting was apparently inconclusive, and White House officials made an executive decision to roughly split the differences between EPA and Energy's emission caps and schedules to create what now became Clear Skies.