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White House Loosens Clean Air Rules


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White House Loosens Clean Air Rules

57 minutes ago

By JOHN HEILPRIN, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Bush administration on Friday eased clean air rules to allow utilities, refineries and manufacturers to avoid having to install expensive new anti-pollution equipment when they modernize their plants.

The long-awaited regulation issued by the Environmental Protection agency (news - web sites) was immediately attacked by environmentalists, state air quality regulators and attorneys general in several Northeast state who promised a lawsuit to try to reverse the action.

But EPA Administrator Christie Whitman rejected critics' claims that the changes would produce dirtier air. She said at a news conference that the changes will "encourage emission reductions" by providing utilities and refinery operators new flexibility when considering operational changes and expansion.

She said the old program has "deterred companies from implementing projects that would increase energy efficiency and decrease air pollution."

A group of Northeastern states, led by New York and Connecticut, said they plan to file suit shortly challenging the changes. The state officials contend that the easing of the clean air requirements "will undermine efforts" to meet air quality standards.

The rule changes, which have been a top priority of the White House, are aimed at making it easier for utilities and refinery operators to change operations and expand production without installing new emission controls.

Industry has argued that the old EPA regulations known as "New Source Review" under the Clean Air Act have hindered operation and prevented efficiency improvements.

The new EPA regulation will allow industry to:

_Set higher limits for the amount of pollution that can be released by calculating emissions on a plant-wide basis rather than for individual pieces of equipment.

_Rely on the highest historical pollution levels during the past decade when figuring whether a facility's overall pollution increase requires new controls.

_Avoid having to update pollution controls if there has already been a government review of existing ones within the past 15 years.

_Exempt increased output of secondary contaminants that result from new pollution controls for other emissions.

In addition, the agency is proposing a new way of defining what constitutes "routine maintenance, repair and replacement" — key language that helps determine when the regulations should kick in and is particularly important for aging coal-fired power plants.

The EPA plans to grant power plants, factories and refineries an annual "allowance" for maintenance. Only when expenditures rise above that allowance would an owner or operator have to install new pollution control equipment. Replacement of existing equipment would be considered maintenance.

The administration said the new maintenance treatment "will offer facilities greater flexibility to improve and modernize their operations in ways that will reduce energy use and air pollution."

However, Vickie Patton, an attorney with Environmental Defense, said the changes amount to "a sweeping and unprecedented erosion of state and local power to protect the public health from air pollution" by thousands of power plants, oil refineries and industrial facilities.

"They're going to do everything they can not only to roll these rules back at the federal level but to force states to dismantle clean air programs that have been in place for years," she said.

The changes were sought by the utility, coal and oil industries, and were the subject of months of review at the White House. The electric utility and coal industries were both major donors to Republicans for the 2002 and 2000 elections.

Electric companies and their employees contributed at least $11 million to the GOP in the 2001-02 election cycle, more than twice as much as they gave Democrats, according to figures compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan group that tracks campaign finance.

Coal companies and their employees made at least $1.9 million in political contributions in that period, with more than $8 of every $10 going to Republicans, the center found.

Bush's 2000 presidential campaign was also a major beneficiary of the industries' largess. Several energy executives raised at least $100,000 each for Bush's campaign, and the energy industry, including electric and mining companies, gave more than $2.8 million.

Many of the fund-raisers and donors were members of Bush's transition team, weighing in on energy and environmental policy as the president set up his administration.


clearly, bush does not care that what we leave in this world in our lifetime will affect future generations for the worse...but i am sure that doesn't bother him...as long as he and his little band can do whatever they wish.

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