NRDC Extends Deadline for Final Rule on Power Plant Pollution

WASHINGTON (April 27, 2004) - Today NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) formally notified the Environmental Protection Agency that it intends to extend the deadline for adopting a final rule to regulate hazardous pollution from power plants to March 15, 2005. NRDC's extension is in response to EPA Administrator Michael Leavitt's claim that the agency could not extend the period for public comment on the rule because of its settlement agreement with NRDC.

NRDC and EPA are parties to a legal settlement agreement requiring the agency to adopt Clean Air Act rules to control hazardous air pollution from electric power plants by December 15, 2004. According to NRDC, EPA has proposed unlawful rules that are far too weak and delayed to protect Americans from hazardous pollution, including mercury. The agency is accepting public comment on its proposal until Friday, April 30.

Recent news reports have revealed that the White House last year ordered EPA professional staff not to conduct analyses of more protective and timely mercury control options, defying requests from an outside advisory committee, members of Congress and the public. EPA Administrator Leavitt has since said that the agency would conduct additional analysis. NRDC and others have requested an extension of the April 30 public comment period deadline to allow the public the opportunity to comment on EPA's new analysis and how it might affect the agency's rule proposals. At a National Press Club event on April 14, however, Administrator Leavitt refused to say what additional analysis his agency was conducting and when it would be available. Moreover, in response to questioning, he said there was no way he could extend the April 30 public comment deadline due to the December 15, 2004, settlement agreement deadline.

In fact, NRDC had contacted EPA on April 12, notifying the agency that NRDC would agree to extend the December 15 deadline to March 15, 2005, to allow the agency to undertake additional analysis and extend the public comment period. Since then, despite repeated NRDC inquiries, EPA has not responded to the proposal.

As a result, NRDC formally notified EPA today that NRDC would regard EPA to be in compliance with the settlement agreement if the agency takes the final action required by the agreement by March 15, 2005. NRDC also is alerting the court of this notification to EPA.

This extension provides EPA with time to undertake additional analysis of more protective and more timely mercury controls for power plants called for by the Clean Air Act Advisory Committee, EPA's Children's Health Protection Advisory Committee, members of Congress, public health organizations and members of the public. It is essential that EPA analyze and re-propose for public comment more protective mercury cleanup approaches. Failure to do so would subject the American people to harmful and unlawful levels of mercury poisoning, according to NRDC.