Right idea, wrong deadline

The latest on the Olin Corp. plant -- that its owners are considering a costly conversion to a cleaner chlorine-producing process -- is certainly welcome news. But it got us to thinking:

Maybe Congress is attempting to set the wrong kind of deadline on the Augusta plant and the country's three other remaining mercury-based plants.

Not the wrong date -- but the wrong kind of deadline.

Congress and Olin are at odds over when a conversion to non-mercury processing could reasonably be completed. Legislation now working its way through the U.S. House initially required conversion or closure of such plants by 2013. An amendment could set that deadline back to 2015. Olin says it needs more time than that.

It occurs to us -- why not concentrate on when the plant operators commit to a conversion, rather than when they complete it?

Pressure could still be brought to bear on the completion date through negotiations, but the real key -- at least in Augusta's case -- seems to be prodding the plant to commit one way or another. Why not set a deadline for plant owners to commit to a conversion or be closed? That way, the decision won't be held up by arguments over how quickly the conversion could be finished.

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