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E-M:/ Secret USEPA plan to weaken Clean Air Act rules



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Enviro-Mich message from Terry Lodge <tjlodge50@yahoo.com>
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  From Public Employees for Environmental
Responsibility,

   www.peer.org

   Certainly must be implications for Michigan
industry (and MDEQ's already-weak CAA observance).

    And Earth, as they say, is STILL "in the
Balance..."

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June 5, 2000 - SECRET EPA PLAN TO RELAX CLEAN AIR
RULES

"Avoidance of Clean Air Act" is Stated Goal 

Privatizes Pollution Enforcement 

Washington, D.C....EPA officials have been quietly
circulating a plan to allow industries to evade
required reviews of new air pollution sources from
plant expansion or modification, according to
documents released today by Public Employees for
Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The plan,
entitled "White Paper Number 3," proposes to relax
stationary source rules to foster "avoidance" of Clean
Air Act regulations governing industrial construction,
expansion and retrofitting by writing permits in such
a "flexible" way that no new permit need ever be
obtained. 

Despite the absence of any public notice, this
dramatic shift in air quality regulation is now on the
verge of adoption. According to the May 12 cover
letter to the latest version of the White Paper from
William Hartnett, acting Director of the Information
Transfer and Program Integration Division of EPA's
Office for Air and Radiation: 

"In general, the draft White Paper reflects
directional agreement among Headquarters offices on
major issues...While not mandatory, we will encourage
permitting authorities to use this guidance as
resources and needs dictate." 

Hartnett solicited final internal comments prior to a
June 7 decision date. 

The White Paper was leaked to PEER, an employee
advocacy group, by concerned EPA staff. "This proposal
privatizes the Clean Air Act such that the needs of
industry rather than public health considerations
drive pollution reduction," stated PEER Executive
Director Jeff Ruch. "There are big unanswered
questions about how pollution permits with this much
flexibility can be enforced or even consistently
applied from state to state." 

Central to the changes proposed by White Paper Number
3 is something called the "smart permit" that
anticipates industry options so that a new permit is
not needed when facility conditions change. "In order
for this system to work, state regulators would need
to be both omniscient and prescient," commented Ruch. 

Problems with the White Paper voiced by EPA employees
include: 

1. Enforceability -- The smart permits would be so
flexible that it would be nearly impossible to
identify Clean Air Act violations. Several recent
reviews of EPA air quality enforcement find fault with
the thoroughness and rigor of current enforcement
efforts. If EPA's present capabilities cannot keep up,
ask critics, how can it handle a far more
sophisticated permitting scheme? 

2. Lack of Public Review -- Not only has the public
been cut out of the formulation of this new guidance
but, once effective, smart permits virtually eliminate
the right of affected citizens to register their
concerns about enlargement of nearby pollution
sources. Blurry permit standards also make it
difficult to bring citizen suits against polluting
companies. 

3. Concepts Not Tested -- The White Paper policies are
based upon "the insights...from a program of pilot
permitting projects." These pilot programs were
limited to using "flexibility" concepts in writing
permits, but not in enforcing them. There has been no
experience implementing these concepts, let alone on a
large scale. 

4. Weak and Uneven Pollution Protection -- If, as
proposed, flexibility concepts are simply handed over
to the states to implement as they see fit, states
could dramatically lower the bar for pollution
protection. States would face little constraint from a
federal oversight agency, EPA, that itself is
fostering Clean Air Act "avoidance." 

"The Clinton-Gore policy on air quality is
schizophrenic -- with one hand they tighten standards
and with the other they weaken enforcement," Ruch
concluded. "Any election year ‘win-win' regulatory
reform or, in this case, ‘re-invention,' should be
approached with skepticism especially when it has been
hatched free from public scrutiny." 

A copy of EPA's White Paper Number 3 is available upon
request. 



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