EPA Proposal Allows Massive Pollution Increases

New Rule Defies Unanimous Supreme Court Decision
WASHINGTON (April 25, 2007) -- The Environmental Protection Agency today issued a supplemental rulemaking proposal that would allow coal-fired power plants across the country to increase their toxic emissions – thereby crippling a key provision of the Clean Air Act, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). Specifically, the proposal would exempt coal-fired power plants from installing modern-day pollution controls when upgrading their facilities and increasing their annual pollution.

The proposal adopts the very same utility industry position that the Supreme Court justices rejected unanimously on April 2 in a clean air enforcement case brought by the EPA and environmental groups against Duke Energy, Environmental Defense v. Duke Energy.  (See the April 2, 2007 press release.)

“This move by EPA represents defiance of the Supreme Court decision and a rush to reward dirty coal-fired power plant lawbreakers,” said John Walke, NRDC’s clean air program director. “EPA’s action will result in more air pollution while trampling on the law and damaging public health.”
When EPA published its original proposal in October, 2005, to adopt this industry-favored dirtier legal approach, the agency said it was trying to change the nation’s clean air laws to follow a court decision by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, that had weakened clean air protections by favoring Duke Energy over the EPA in a clean air enforcement lawsuit. Now, the highest court in the nation has overruled that weak decision. With today’s step, the Bush administration is nonetheless barreling ahead with adoption of the dangerous and illegal industry position.
“It’s breathtaking, as a matter of logic and public safety, that the Bush administration would actually adopt the dirtier, losing position of polluting lawbreakers that EPA is prosecuting, and make those lawbreakers’ demands the law of the land,” said Walke. “EPA has gone from being cop to accomplice, aiding and abetting the lawbreakers that violate the Clean Air Act and spit on public health.”
Underlying the Bush administration’s attacks on clean air protections in today’s proposal are two decades’ worth of pollution violations by Duke Energy and other companies that have resulted in millions of tons of illegal smog and soot – pollution linked to asthma, heart attacks, and other serious ailments. It is part of a much wider effort in the industry to skirt a provision known as new source review (NSR), under which old generating facilities undergoing major changes must also be brought up to current emissions standards, according to experts at NRDC.

For further information on the EPA’s efforts to allow increased pollution, including internal EPA documents, see the March 3, 2002 press release.