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NEW YORK TIMES -- 11/6/03

Lawyers at E.P.A. Say It Will Drop Pollution Cases

WASHINGTON, Nov. 5 - A change in enforcement policy will lead the
Environmental Protection Agency to drop investigations into 50 power plants
for past violations of the Clean Air Act, lawyers at the agency who were
briefed on the decision this week said.

The lawyers said in interviews on Wednesday that the decision meant the
cases would be judged under new, less stringent rules set to take effect
next month, rather than the stricter rules in effect at the time the
investigations began.

The lawyers said the new rules include exemptions that would make it almost
impossible to sustain the investigations into the plants, which are
scattered around the country and owned by 10 utilities.


Congressional critics, environmental groups and officials in some Northeast
states described the change as a major victory for the utility industry and
a defeat for environmentalists, who had viewed the cases as the best way to
require the companies to install billions of dollars of new pollution

Representatives of the utility industry have been among President Bush's
biggest campaign donors, and a change in the enforcement policies has been a
top priority of the industry's lobbyists.



Under the old rules of the so-called New Source Review program, power
plants, oil refineries and industrial boilers that were modernized in ways
that increased harmful emissions generally had to install more pollution

Under the new rules, any renovation project that costs less than 20 percent
of the power-generating unit's value will be exempt, and no pollution
controls will need to be added even if the project increases emissions.
Critics say thresholds set at that level would exempt most of the power
plants that have been under investigation.

One career E.P.A. enforcement lawyer said the decision, coupled with the
changes in the underlying rules, could mean that the utility industry could
avoid making as much as $10 billion to $20 billion in pollution-control

The Bush administration and the utility industry say the old rules were too
costly and ineffective.
The old rules "were based on a serious misinterpretation" of federal law,
said Dan Riedinger, a spokesman for the Edison Electric Institute, the
industry's main trade group. The new rules, Mr. Riedinger said, "are
consistent with the companies' obligations to maintain reliability and
safety," and will "keep emissions trending downward."

But critics expressed outrage on Wednesday, saying the decision would
eliminate one of the most effective weapons government regulators had to
curtail pollutants.
"This latest attack on the environment sends a clear message to the
president's corporate polluting cronies - do whatever you want to improve
the bottom line," said Senator Frank R. Lautenberg, Democrat of New Jersey.
"Profits are more important than cleaning the air for children who suffer
from asthma and seniors with respiratory diseases."

Other Democratic leaders, including three presidential candidates, also
criticized the decision, suggesting that President Bush's record on air
pollution could become an issue in next year's election.
Peter Anderson
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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