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E-M:/ Clean Air and Bush: NYT

Enviro-Mich message from "David Holtz" <david.holtz@sierraclub.org>


Camouflage on Clean Air

 Victories for the environment, even small ones, come rarely in the Bush
administration. So last week there was reason to cheer when John Ashcroft,
the attorney general, said that as a matter of law the Clinton
administration and a group of Northeastern states were justified in
launching lawsuits against operators of 51 power plants that had failed to
install pollution controls as required by the Clean Air Act. Yet the victory
is almost certain to be temporary. Powerful forces inside the administration
are determined to eliminate or weaken the provision of the Clean Air Act on
which these suits were based. If that happens, the legal process involving
the 51 plants will come to a halt and the nation will be robbed of a useful
weapon against dirty air.

The provision in question is known as new source review. It requires
existing power plants to install modern pollution controls whenever they are
significantly upgraded or expanded to produce more power and, in most cases,
more pollution. The lawsuits charged that the companies had failed to
install the required controls, and tentative settlements were reached last
year with two big operators  Cinergy, based in Cincinnati, and Virginian
Electric Power, in Richmond  which agreed to install costly new controls.
The Northeastern states were particularly interested in the outcome because
a lot of the pollution from Midwestern and Border State plants blows
eastward on the prevailing winds, causing acid rain and adding to urban

In May, however, the energy task force headed by Vice President Dick Cheney
ordered Justice to review the pending cases as part of a larger effort to
determine whether new source review was discouraging investment and
expansion, as industry claimed. Justice has now completed its mission,
ruling that the pending cases may proceed. But pressure to torpedo the
underlying statute continues to build  from high-priced industry lobbyists
like the former Republican Party chairman Haley Barbour, and from members of
the cabinet. If these forces ultimately prevail, last week's action by
Justice will be little more, to quote Eliot Spitzer, New York's attorney
general, than "disingenuous camouflage of another capitulation" to President
Bush's industrial allies.

David Holtz
Environmental Media Coordinator
313.300.4454 cell
 "The moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward
justice."--Martin Luther King

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