Rule Will Not Deliver Pollution Reductions Needed to Protect Public Health, But Better Than Stalled Legislative Scheme to Weaken Law, Says NRDC

Statement by John Walke, NRDC Senior Attorney

WASHINGTON (March 10, 2005) -- Today the Environmental Protection Agency issued a rule requiring 28 states and the District of Columbia to reduce power plant pollution that causes deadly soot, asthma-inducing smog and acid rain. The agency describes the rule as an effort to help many of the hundreds of counties that have unsafe air pollution levels meet Clean Air Act air quality deadlines.

The agency is finalizing this new rule a day after the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee rejected a bill that would have slowed the pace of pollution cleanup, postponed Clean Air Act air quality deadlines by as long as a decade, and eliminated critical tools to protect public health.

Next week, EPA will issue a rule addressing power plant mercury pollution under a settlement agreement with NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) requiring the rule by March 15.

Below is a statement by John Walke, NRDC's clean air project director:

"By finally taking this long overdue step today, the EPA is confirming that power plant pollution is a major threat to public health and that significant cleanup is necessary. The agency also is recognizing that the power industry can afford to clean up its pollution, and that the public health benefits vastly outweigh the costs.

"Unfortunately, under today's rule, more than 31 million Americans still will be breathing unsafe levels of deadly soot and asthma-inducing smog a decade from now, even though pollution-control technology companies have told EPA they can achieve deeper pollution cuts sooner. Since EPA's new rule alone will not provide healthy air across the entire country, many states will have to require additional, more expensive cleanup to protect their residents.

"Worse, we expect EPA to use today's rule as cover to let power plants continue to spew excessive amounts of mercury and other toxic pollution for at least a decade longer than the Clean Air Act allows. The agency will be announcing that rule next week."