States Urge EPA Not to Weaken New Source Review

New York Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo announced on June 5 that he is organizing an effort to urge EPA not to weaken a program that seeks to ensure air quality is not worsened by overhauls and additions at power plants and other emissions sources.

"EPA should enforce and strengthen the Clean Air Act, not weaken it," Cuomo said. "Pollution from coal-burning power plants and other facilities cause real problems throughout the United States from acid rain to urban smog to global warming. These problems threaten people in New York State and other northeastern states downwind of these plants. It's not just our region that's at risk when EPA tries to weaken the Clean Air Act -- it's the whole country, and the whole planet."

The New Source Review (NSR) program is a key part of the Clean Air Act that governs air pollution from older coal-burning power plants and other facilities. It requires these facilities to install modern air pollution controls if they expand their operations and increase emissions.

Attorneys general from 16 states, mostly from East Coast and western states, wrote to EPA in response to a proposed rule on record keeping and public information requirements for coal-burning facilities and other major industrial plants that EPA published in the March 8Federal Register.

EPA was required to issue the rule in response to a 2005 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, in an action brought by New York and other states (State of New York vs. EPA, No. 021387A, June 24, 2005). The court had sent back the regulations EPA had formerly issued, which did not require plants making modifications to track and report their emissions -- so long as the plant operators saw no "reasonable possibility" that these changes would trigger NSR requirements. The court found these regulations to be arbitrary.

The attorneys general believe EPA's new proposed rule still fails to fix this problem, making it easier for power plants to escape NSR enforcement.

Signatories to the letter, in addition to Cuomo, were the attorneys general of Arizona, California, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

Cuomo can be contacted at http://www.oag.state.ny.us. The Federal Register notice can be found at http://www.epa.gov/fedrgstr/EPA-AIR/2007/March/Day-08/a3897.htm. More information on NSR can be found at http://www.epa.gov/nsr.

This article originally appeared in the 06/01/2007 issue of Environmental Protection.

comments powered by Disqus