EPA to Reconsider Relaxed Clean-Air Rules

Associated Press Writer


WASHINGTON (AP) - Utilities, oil companies and manufacturers may lose part of the reprieve they won last December from having to install more costly air quality controls on their older facilities.

The Bush administration said Friday it will reconsider parts of new clean air rules it completed last New Year's Eve. Those rules relaxed some earlier regulations on dealing with air pollution when older industrial plants expand, make major repairs or modify operations to increase efficiency.

Several states downwind from the biggest industrial sources of air pollution and environmental groups sued to overturn the new rules immediately after they were issued, saying they undermined efforts to protect public health.

Responding particularly to the claim that some new rules never got an adequate public airing, EPA said it will reconsider six limited issues and accept public comment on them for 30 days. In the meantime, EPA said it will keep the new regulations intact.

The six issues involve:

-An EPA analysis that concluded its revisions will lead to less pollution than the past rules.

-Allowing plants that have installed state-of-the-art pollution controls not to install more effective equipment for 10 years, even if they expand or change operations in a way that results in greater pollution.

-Whether facilities that modernize have to keep records and file certain reports about their pollution levels.

-How companies calculate their emissions to reduce the likelihood that new pollution controls will be required.

-Allowing plants with numerous pollution sources to increase pollution from some sources as long as overall, plant-wide air emissions are not increased.

-How emission increases are measured when smokestacks, boilers and generators are replaced.

EPA said it will hold a hearing on the issues on Aug. 14 at Research Triangle Park, N.C.

White House and EPA officials have maintained that the regulations as interpreted by the Clinton administration created disincentives for companies to reduce pollution.

"We continue to believe that the changes finalized in the December 2002 rulemaking are fully justified," EPA spokeswoman Lisa Harrison said. "This reconsideration doesn't mean that we've decided to change any aspects at this time."

Keri Powell, an attorney for law firm Earthjustice, representing the environmental groups, said the new rules create broad loopholes for industry.

"It makes it very easy for a source to make changes that increase emissions without installing up-to-date pollution control technology. If one loophole doesn't work out, they can turn to another one," she said.


On the Net:

Environmental Protection Agency: http://www.epa.gov/nsr

Natural Resources Defense Council: http://www.nrdc.org/air/pollution/pnsr.asp

2003-07-25 22:28:58 GMT


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