- July 1 - As the EPA touted its "Clear Skies" proposal today, clean
air activists called on Administrator Whitman and the Bush Administration to drop
their efforts to weaken current clean air rules.
The Administration announced last month that it would finalize regulatory changes
to the "New Source Review" program that would allow older power plants,
refineries, chemical facilities and other industries to modify their operations
in ways that will increase pollution levels without installing modern pollution
controls, as required by today's law. This move could result in pollution increases
at more than 17,000 facilities, and has the potential to increase emissions by
hundreds of thousands of tons per year across the nation.
"This Administration, backed by the coal, electric and oil industries,
has proposed the most devastating attack on the Clean Air Act in its 30-year history,"
said Becky Stanfield, Clean Air Advocate for U.S. PIRG. "Today's EPA announcements
are little more than an attempt to focus public attention away from this attack,
by touting a policy which is unlikely to become law, and in any event would not
undo the harm caused by the regulatory changes," she continued.
The Clear Skies proposal, according to EPA's own analysis performed last September,
would result in more pollution emitted from the electric power industry than if
EPA were to simply enforce the existing programs under the current Clean Air Act.
Specifically, Clear Skies would allow the emissions of:
- 36% more nitrogen oxides, which cause the formation of ozone "smog."
triggers an estimated 6 million asthma attacks per year.
- 50% more sulfur dioxide, which causes formation of fine particle "soot"
which in turn causes heart and lung disease leading to tens of thousands of premature
deaths per year. Sulfur dioxide is also the leading cause of acid rain.
- Three to five times more toxic mercury, which has contaminated the fish in
40 states. Consumption of these mercury-laced fish can cause neurological damage,
especially for young children.
"Already 30,000 people die prematurely each year due to power plant pollution,"
said Stanfield. "The combination of eliminating current clean air protections,
and substituting an entirely hypothetical, weaker set of pollution limits will
mean more sickness, premature death, acid rain, and mercury contamination,"
she continued. The activists noted that while the Administration is weakening
rules for many sources of pollution, including power plants, refineries, pulp
and paper mills, chemical plants and others, their Clear Skies proposal only covers
power plants. Therefore, increases in pollution from refineries and other industries
would not be mitigated under Clear Skies were this proposal to become law.
Finally, the activists contrasted the Clear Skies proposal with the Clean Power
Act passed by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee last week. That
bill, authored by Senators Jeffords (I-VT) and Lieberman (D-CT) would:
- Require steeper reductions for mercury, nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide,
which would take effect a decade earlier than the Clear Skies proposal.
- Require reductions in carbon dioxide, the leading cause of global warming
to 1990 levels. The Clear Skies proposal ignores the need to address global warming
by omitting limits on carbon dioxide pollution.
- Retain all of the current programs under the Clean Air Act including the
New Source Review program.
"The Jeffords Clean Power Act is a common-sense approach to comprehensively
addressing power plant pollution," said Stanfield. "By contrast, the
Bush Clear Skies proposal will take us backwards on clean air, and that is unacceptable,"
U.S. PIRG is the national lobby office for the State Public Interest Research
Groups. State PIRGs are non-profit, nonpartisan public interest advocacy organizations
active across the nation.