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E-M:/ National attack on Clean Air Act

Enviro-Mich message from "Alex J. Sagady & Associates" <ajs@sagady.com>

This publication of a final rule by the Bush Administration,
certain to be challenged in court by several parties [will Michigan under 
Jennifer Granholm be among them?] will dramatically weaken clean air 
in Michigan and elsewhere,.....and not just for elderly power plants, but
all industrial plants...

Contact: John Walke or Elliott Negin at 292-298-6868

Bush Weakening of Clean Air Act Threatens Public Health, Says NRDC

Group Warns Decision the Beginning of an All-Out Assault on Environment

WASHINGTON (November 22, 2002) – Today’s Bush administration decision to 
weaken a key Clean Air Act provision will dramatically increase air 
pollution and threaten the health of millions of Americans, according to 
NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council). The group also warned that 
today’s decision is a sign of things to come. It predicted that the 
administration, emboldened by the recent election results, will intensify 
its campaign to dismantle longstanding environmental safeguards across the 

“The Bush administration decided to allow corporate polluters to spew even 
more toxic chemicals into our air, regardless of the fact that it will harm 
millions of Americans,” said John Walke, director of NRDC’s Clean Air 
Program. “More than 30,000 Americans die every year from power plant air 
pollution alone, and crippling the standards will only make things worse.” 
NRDC plans to take legal action against the rule change.

The provision in question, called “New Source Review” (NSR), requires 
facilities to install modern pollution controls when they upgrade or modify 
their equipment and significantly increase their emissions. NSR requires 
more than 17,000 of the country’s largest polluting facilities to clean up 
increased emissions from facility changes. These facilities include oil 
refineries, chemical plants, power plants, incinerators, iron and steel 
foundries, paper mills, cement plants, and a broad array of manufacturing 

Besides gutting the NSR provision with final rule changes (see below), the 
administration today also proposed loopholes that essentially would 
eliminate cleanup requirements for existing facilities. Specifically, the 
Environmental Protection Agency has recommended two unlawful exemptions 
that would allow companies to modify their plants in any way, call it 
“routine maintenance,” and avoid installing pollution controls when they 
significantly increase emissions. Former EPA enforcement officials have 
sharply criticized these proposals because they believe they will undermine 
pending enforcement cases against coal-fired power plants.

“Under this administration, the cop is not only off the beat, the EPA is 
proposing to legalize harmful pollution that today is illegal,” said Walke. 
Rumors of these proposed exemptions already have prompted defendants in 
pending power plant enforcement cases to argue that the government is 
reversing course on its legal positions, he said. NRDC believes that 
today’s proposal will further undercut enforcement cases and discourage 

NRDC sees today’s decision as just the beginning of a two-year 
administration campaign. “Sadly, there is every reason to believe that this 
is just the leading edge of an assault on fundamental protections for our 
air, water and public health by the Bush administration,” said Gregory
Wetstone, NRDC’s director of advocacy. “Emboldened by the election, and 
unrestrained by serious congressional oversight, the Bush administration is 
escalating its effort to undermine our landmark environmental laws.”

Although NRDC did not have the final rule at this writing, a draft version 
obtained by NRDC shows that the administration will weaken NSR in a number 
of fundamental ways, including:

·       Smoke and Mirrors: Under the NSR provision, changes at industrial 
facilities resulting in significant pollution increases (e.g., 40 tons per 
year) triggered cleanup obligations. To determine whether pollution 
increases, a company must compare its pollution before the change, known as 
its pollution “baseline,” with pollution levels after the change. The 
administration’s rule change will allow a facility to pick a fictional 
pollution baseline that is worse than its actual pollution levels, 
essentially allowing the facility to pollute more and pretend it is not.

·       The Dirty Unit Loophole: The Environmental Protection Agency is 
creating a loophole in NSR requirements called the “clean unit” exemption. 
Far from being clean, the sole purpose of the exemption is to allow 
significant increases in air pollution to avoid cleanup and installing 
state-of-the-art pollution controls that were required under NSR rules.

·       No PAL of Mine: EPA is adopting a plant-wide applicability limit 
(PAL) concept that purports to be a 10-year “cap” on pollution covering an 
entire facility. It will allow facilities to lock in excessive pollution 
levels – without having to reduce those levels – and avoid cleanup under 
NSR for 10 years and beyond. EPA will not mandate pollution control 
requirements for new or existing polluting equipment under a PAL. A PAL 
will last 10 years, allowing pollution decreases that occurred nine years 
ago to purportedly “offset” actual and significant pollution increases 
today, thereby avoiding cleanup today.

Today, EPA also proposed a “routine maintenance” loophole in NSR cleanup 
standards. Specifically, the agency proposed two versions of a loophole 
that would allow facilities to increase pollution from hundreds to tens of 
thousands of tons. The first version would allow companies to replace as 
much as 15 percent of the total capital cost of their facilities each year, 
increase pollution as much as they wanted, and avoid cleanup. The second 
would allow companies to replace any piece of equipment of any size with 
the same or similar new equipment, increase pollution as much as they 
wanted, and avoid cleanup.

“These two exemptions have no basis under the Clean Air Act and essentailly 
would eliminate NSR cleanup standards,” said Walke. “And it should be 
stressed that these new loopholes would supplement – not replace – existing 
NSR exemptions. In other words, EPA is not clarifying the existing ‘routine 
maintenance’ exemption; it’s merely adding new ones that kill the standards.”

The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, non-profit 
organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated 
to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has 
more than 500,000 members nationwide, served from offices in New York, 
Washington, Los Angeles and San Francisco. More information is available at 
NRDC’s Web site, .


Alex J. Sagady & Associates  http://my.voyager.net/~ajs/sagady.pdf

Environmental Enforcement, Technical Review, Public Policy and
Communications on Air, Water and Waste/Community Environmental Protection

PO Box 39,  East Lansing, MI  48826-0039
(517) 332-6971; (517) 332-8987 (fax); ajs@sagady.com
Quote of the Week:

  "Osama bin Laden is still alive and plotting more attacks while we play 
bureaucratic shuffleboard."    Sen. Robert C. Bird (during debate on 
homeland security bill).

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