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[greenyes] EPA Weakens New Source Rules
NY TIMES -- 8/28/03
Administration Adopts Rule on Antipollution Exemption
By KATHARINE Q. SEELYE


ASHINGTON, Aug. 27 - The Bush administration relaxed its clean air rules
today to allow thousands of industrial plants to make upgrades without
installing pollution controls, arguing that other regulations were in place
to reduce emissions.

Utilities, which sought the new rule, said it would allow them to make
improvements that would ensure the reliability of the power supply, a
prominent issue after the Aug. 14 power failure that led to the biggest
blackout in the nation's history.

In one of its most far-reaching environmental actions, the Bush
administration signed a rule that will allow thousands of power plants,
refineries, pulp and paper mills, chemical plants and other industrial
facilities to make extensive upgrades that increase pollutants without
having to install new antipollution devices. The rule, for which industries
have lobbied the administration for two years, could save them billions of
dollars. The Natural Resources Defense Council estimates that more than
17,000 plants will be affected.

Administration officials said the new rule would clarify an otherwise
subjective standard and allow plants to modernize more easily, leading to
greater efficiency and potentially lower consumer costs.

They said it would not increase pollution because other rules were in place
to control emissions. By several indicators, the emissions of a number of
pollutants have, in fact, declined over the last several years. In the view
of industry and the administration, the rule in question, "new source
review," has been relatively incidental to that downward trend.

Marianne Horinko, the acting administrator of the Environmental Protection
Agency, said that "existing authorities under the Clean Air Act, including
the acid rain amendments of 1990, already control emissions from these
facilities and will do so in the future."

Critics, including several state officials, took fierce exception to this
rationale, insisting that the new rule would allow increased emissions and
vowing to fight it in court.

"I have no idea what in the world they mean," said Winston H. Hickox,
secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency. "Of course
there are other regulations that are specific to equipment and other things,
but this is a broad, general approach that made a lot of sense: when you
make a modification, you have to bring the plant up to best available
technology."

Mr. Hickox added: "It's not to say that the business community has gleefully
accepted this, but they have gone along with it and recognized that it's a
tool to help us meet the air quality standards. What they're doing today is
a relaxation, and we're not going to allow that kind of backsliding in
California."

Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly of Massachusetts, which is also going to
court to stop the rule, said: "The Bush administration is giving the green
light to major industrial plant operators to spew millions of tons more in
air pollution without being held accountable."

A recent report by the General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of
Congress, said the E.P.A. had relied on anecdotal evidence to build a case
for the new rule.

Jeffrey Holmstead, the E.P.A. administrator for air programs, said today,
"We wish we had better data, but we're confident this rule will not have an
emissions impact."

The rule allows industrial plants to avoid installing pollution-control
devices when they replace equipment, even if the upgrade increases
pollution, as long as the cost of the replacement is less than 20 percent of
the cost of essential production equipment.

Industry welcomed the new rule.

Thomas R. Kuhn, president of the Edison Electric Institute, a trade group
for utilities, said the rule set a common-sense standard that would "lift a
major cloud of uncertainty, boosting our efforts to provide affordable,
reliable electric service and cleaner air."

Mr. Kuhn said the rule would encourage plants to make efficiency
improvements without fear that they would trigger the requirement for new
pollution controls. These upgrades, he said, would allow generators to
produce electricity using less fuel, resulting in lower emissions.

But critics said the new rule could allow more emissions because it could
jeopardize several lawsuits that the Justice Department began under the
Clinton administration and is continuing under the Bush administration.

The Justice Department contends that 51 power plants are in violation of the
Clean Air Act because they made significant upgrades and increased their
pollution without installing pollution controls. Under the new rule, those
plants would not be in violation of the act and could make their
improvements without new pollution controls.

The department has obtained settlements from 5 of the 12 companies that
operate the 51 plants. This month, it won a major case against Ohio Edison,
a unit of FirstEnergy, with a federal judge ruling that the plant upgraded
seven coal-fired power plants illegally because it did not install pollution
equipment.

Ms. Horinko said the suits would continue to "wend their way through the
courts." She said it was unlikely that the administration would bring new
suits under the old rule, but she said, "We'll vigorously enforce this new
rule."

Critics have also contended that the administration was rushing the rule
through now so that President Bush's nominee for E.P.A. administrator, Gov.
Michael O. Leavitt of Utah, would not be accountable for it, assuming he is
confirmed by the Senate next month.

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______________________________
Peter Anderson
RECYCLEWORLDS CONSULTING Corp
4513 Vernon Blvd. Suite 15
Madison, WI 53705
Ph:    (608) 231-1100
Fax:   (608) 233-0011
Cell    (608) 438-9062
email: anderson@no.address


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